Social media won't be sent up the river any time soon for killing e-mail, eMarketer reports. But there are some indications that that it is chipping away at e-mail’s use for personal communications.

The death watch for e-mail was given new urgency when comScore’s “2010 U.S. Digital Year in Review” noted a decline in time spent with web-based e-mail with all U.S. Internet users under age 55. The most pronounced bailout on e-mail in favor of other online communications was among users between the ages of 12 and 17, who registered a 59 percent drop-off.

But checking e-mail from a desktop computer is only the tip of e-mail usage iceberg, other research suggests.

Nearly 9 out of 10 (87 percent) Internet users checked personal e-mail daily in 2010, according to Merkle, a customer relationship marketing agency.  And social media usage is hardly taking away from e-mail. Social media users, in fact, are more likely than other Internet users to check their e-mail four or more times a day.

And mobile access is letting e-mail users check their mail more often even when they’re away from their desktop. More than half (55 percent) of users who had an Internet-enabled mobile phone checked their  personal e-mail using their phone, and nearly two-thirds of mobile e-mail users checked their account at least once a day.

If there is any erosion in e-mail usage, it appears it’s in the personal sphere. Messages from friends and family are taking up less of all time spent with e-mail, while the share of time spent with commercial messages is rising. The proportion of respondents to the Merkle survey spending at least 20 minutes per week with personal e-mail fell from 71 percent in 2009 to 66 percent last year.

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