Email, texting and instant messaging are all ways of communicating with others via potentially long distances. Email and instant messaging require the Internet, whereas texting takes place over cell phone networks. Mobile devices enables some people to use all three of these services simultaneously, and some providers of one service offer access to at least one of the other two methods of communication.
The popularity of mobile devices such as phones and tablets has blurred the lines between communication via email, texting and instant messaging. Many of these devices support mobile Internet connections. Therefore, email is often as convenient as texting. Furthermore, most mobile devices support apps that can notify the user of a new message even if the app is not currently in use. In this way, the user can be notified of new email messages or instant messages in a way that is similar to a new text message.
Email is unique among these communication methods because of the broad range of content it can contain. In addition to shorter messages, email accommodates long-form letters, essays and file attachments. Furthermore, it integrates well with HTML. If you wish to send a message full of images and custom formatting, use email. Email also supports hyperlinks, so the reader of your email message can immediately view the Web page you reference. Lastly, among email, texting and instant messaging, email tends to have the most forgiving response window. While there are no set rules for email etiquette, most email users understand that the recipients of their messages are not perpetually checking their email accounts.
Texting occupies a middle ground between email and instant messaging. Short Message Service messages are limited to 160 characters, so they can never be as long an extended email. Furthermore, SMS messages are delivered to cell phones. This may enable you to reach somebody quicker than via email, depending on her cell phone habits. Text messages are different from email and instant messaging in that text messages do not require an Internet connection. Lastly, SMS is valuable for communication with databases from your phone; in some locations, you can easily share information like public transportation schedules and weather forecasts through text messages.
Instant messaging services vary by platform, but they always require an Internet connection. Typically, IM services only allow you to connect with people who are using the same service, though some allow you to connect with competing services. Once connected, you can have a real-time chat with any of your contacts who are logged on at the same time. Because the other user is also logged in, instant messaging services are usually much more immediate than email or texting. AOL Instant Messenger, Apple's iMessage and the Internet call service Skype are three of the most widely-used IM services.
- Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images