Snail Mail (personal) vs Electronic Mail (impersonal)
I’m thrilled that instant information rules our day for the most part and I’m SUPER thrilled that we can communicate via Blogging, but I’m also a proponent of posted/written communication.
First of all: Blogging.
I think us Bloggers relish the opportunity to “be published” on the Internet because not many of us will ever have a byline in a syndicated newspaper, and book-publishing just seems too hard a goal to attain. With that said, however, I write with this in mind: job counselors often advise employees to dress for the job they want, not for the job they currently hold, so I’m Blogging with a publishing intent that takes me out of my home-office and into the homes of others. If I can’t get others to read my articles, I may as well be writing in a personal journal. So blogging is a great venue in which to reach the masses.
But I LOVE the written word. I own a Kindle, actually, I’m on my second Kindle, and that’s the only way I read books, be they fiction or non-fiction. I’m such a voracious reader, I’m convinced Kindle was invented just for me. 🙂 So when I say I love the written word, what I’m really saying is that I love letter writing. I own stationery, n. paper and other materials needed for writing, and I have a large accordion file that holds greeting cards, n. a decorative card sent to convey good wishes. (Definitions from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th Edition, 2004.) I love sending cards and I love receiving cards, but mostly I love sending them.
Nicole Brodeur, Seattle Times staff columnist wrote a piece that appeared in our local newspaper on January 13, 2012: For The Love of A Letter. She writes how wonderful it is to receive a piece of mail with our name on it, written in hand, which becomes “a bit of humanity among the bills and slick circulars.” She correctly states that the written letter is becoming a dying art, so much so that the United States Postal Service faces a very bleak, if not brief, future. Certainly e-mail is quick and doesn’t require one of those pesky, ever-changing-in-value postal stamps. Evites are quick and oh so engaging – NOT- as we read respondents’ comments about why they can’t attend. But Evites are pretty darn impersonal. Ted Kennedy Watson, owner of two Seattle shops with all things paper, states in Ms. Brodeur’s article that he “gets ‘hundreds’ of emails a day, some invitations to events that, en masse, lose some of their luster. You start to feel more included than invited.”
En masse communications – you’re simply one of the many e-mail addresses in someone’s global e-mail address book. I know we’ll always rely on this form of instant communication – I certainly do – but Ms. Brodeur hits it on the nail when she says that she hopes that “we don’t tweet or tap away the value of putting thoughts to paper, of taking the time.” (Even a “Dear John” written letter is more personal and respectful than a “Dear John” e-mail or text message.) She talks about letters that she’s saved over the years which instantly brought to mind one of my most valuable letters; one which I keep in my fireproof safe: the last letter my mother ever wrote to me. My parents still lived in Hawaii when I moved to the Seattle area in June of 1994 and my mother and I spoke on the phone at least two times a week. But it was her letters that I relished the most. One of those letters arrived in my mailbox on September 22nd, 1994. I read it, placed it to the side, and went about the rest of my day. Two days later my mother died in her sleep quite suddenly and inexplicably. When I received the news in a phone call from my father that day I frantically looked around for my mom’s letter hoping that I had not tossed it in the recycle bin. Glory hallelujiah – I had not. So two days before my mother died, I have her thoughts on paper, in her handwriting, and signed “Love, Mom” at the bottom of the second page.
Somehow I don’t think a saved e-mail could ever render the memories and the sentiments that my mother’s handwritten letter does every time I retrieve it from the safe to read it.
Facebook (I have an account) and Twitter, and other social sites can continue to do what they do, but let’s not dispense with the antiquated and/or archaic practice of putting pen to paper. Please?
2 thoughts on “Snail Mail (personal) vs Electronic Mail (impersonal)”
January 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm
I concur with everything said here, and want to add a dimension to the theme around the sometimes impersonal nature of our instant communication age:
Texting, emailing or tweeting can be a way to avoid or circumvent difficult conversations. Interpersonal relationships are built upon and strengthened by personal contact – be that by telephone or face to face. Personal, human contact is sacrificed in the name of efficiency. Yet it is common today that people find out they’ve been fired – or “dumped” from a relationship – by email! Or text! Are you kidding me!?
I have an iPhone, a lap top, a Kindle. OK, I don’t have an iPad or a Kindle Fire. But I’m pretty connected. I have to watch myself sometimes as I am emailing or texting a friend or family member, when talking to them may be the best thing – for me and for them.
And there are times when even a phone call is not the best way to connect with someone. Everyone by now is familiar with the sex abuse scandal that has rocked Penn State University. Joe Paterno is now former long time head coach of that university’s football team. He was associated with that program for 61 years. I’m 63, so that, my friends, is a long time. When the Board of Trustees decided to fire him, it occurred by means of a brief phone call. There of course can be endless debate over Mr. Paterno’s actions – or inactions – associated with this very complicated and tragic situation. However, there is no excuse for not conveying this news to Joe Paterno face to face. He deserved that, regardless of his complicity in this scandal.
So – stay connected! Just make sure that sometimes it is personal.
January 18, 2012 at 5:55 pm
Thank you for your well-thought out dialogue. You are preaching to the choir to be sure.
Keep those comments coming!