Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for E-Mail

It's E-day for the A-Z Challenge. Because I haven't planned these posts ahead of time, I sat and stared at the letter E for a long time this morning, wondering what the heck to write about. And because I had kind of a crappy day yesterday, I was utterly without inspiration.

I considered and rejected dozens of E-words until I finally settled on E-mail.

E-mail has completely changed the face of communication. I'm old enough (just barely!) to remember life before E-mail and the internet, back when you had to sit down and write a letter on a piece of paper and wait days as the postal service delivered it, and then more days to receive a response. We didn't know it then, but it was agonizing.

E-mail has thankfully made communicating nearly instant. On the one hand, for those of us who tend to be chronically impatient, E-mail is a godsend. On the other hand, E-mail has taken the personal out of mail.

I can remember the excitement of waiting for the mailman, and receiving personalized mail. My best friend and most of my family lived in another state, so it was a real treat to get letters. And writing letters is a lost art. When you take the time to put pen to paper, you're giving someone a little of yourself.

I still have bundles of handwritten letters between my great grandmother and great grandfather, I still have letters from my best friend (who died almost 20 years ago), and I still have letters from my grandparents (who are all passed now). There's just something about recognizing a loved-one's handwriting, knowing that when they took the time to sit down to write a letter, for that brief amount of time, they were thinking only of you. It's like having a little piece of that person with you all the time.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't ever give up E-mail. I can't remember how the world functioned before E-mail and internet. It was excruciatingly slow, that's for sure. But sometimes in our rush for progress we lose sight of the simple, personal touches that keep us connected on a human level, and I think that's a dangerous place to go.

So what do you think? Does E-mail (and progress) cause us to be less compassionate? More distant? Or am I just being melancholy today? Can you remember the days of handwritten letters?


Bish Denham said...

Email is so quick and handy. But I too miss the hand written letters. It is personal and more direct than any email could ever be.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Email has changed ALL our lives. I do love email, but I do miss writing and receiving letters. There is nothing like the personal touch and for me my penmanship has suffered because I used write all the time by hand.

Anonymous said...

I agree with e-mail being great for communication, but I remember keeping in touch with family via handwritten letters because my family couldn't afford the internet yet. I loved the expectation, and the fact that you had an entire week to catch up on. I still write letters to my other half, just so he has something of mine.

A fellow A-Zer

Lady A xxx

Donna Weaver said...

Email has changed things, and some of it's not good. I agree with you on all the benefits. I love being able to email someone who might not be there to accept a phone call. It's easier to get my thoughts down clearly on the screen than what frequently comes out my mouth with a voice message. But email too frequently ends up with us shooting off message before they're ready--and things don't come across on paper the way they do when balanced with tone of voice (and body language if in person). It's easier to offend with writing.

And digital messages go the way of the world. If we spend our courting days sending emails, there won't be any sweet love letters for our grandchildren and great grandchildren to keep and treasure (not that there are even many of those floating around).

Heather Henry said...

This really hits home for me. I am a romantic at heart and to me, there is nothing more romantic than hand-written letters. I love writing them and decorating the paper and receiving them. I think we have truly lost the beautiful art of true, deep, meaningful communication and conversation. Don't get me wrong, I obviously like the internet and the networking that can only be achieved via blogging (I've met some rather lovely people through this) but checking the mail and finding a wonderful letter from a friend, a love, a family member is a gift I never want to let go of. I still write letters to people, I always keep paper with me, so if I'm stuck sitting somewhere I can write a letter to someone who is on my mind. It's amazing the reactions of those who receive. Great blog, btw. Glad to meet you!!

KatheeJantzi said...

Great post - I worked today and am staring at the letter E and it's almost 10pm! Thanks for the visit to my blog and send me your query at and I'll post it with Kimmy's awesome review. That would be great!

Email is a lifesaver for me because I type much faster than I write and my handwriting is sloppy. I also find it easier to flirt with my hubby via text/email - anyone else??

Sarah Mäkelä said...

I really like email since it's fast and convenient. No stamps necessary. But I do enjoy receiving personal mail, or even personal email, which is sometimes hard to come by these days. Good topic!

Lisa said...

Great post! I love to receive letters in the mail, but I have to say, I've trained myself to get just as excited about mail in my inbox now...

Just hopping by with A to Z!

Grammy said...

Hi, I am an e-mailer, but also lived during the second world war and remember getting V-mail from my brothers...well, actually the mail was for my mom, but I remember seeing it and reading the words that were not blacked out by the censors, to keep military secrets from being revealed. You never knew exactly where the military person was, because all hints were obliterated by that awful black ink. The V-mail letters were simply a piece of paper written on, then folded in the shape of an envelope, and addressed, and mailed. They were blue paper. OOPS. This comment has gone a little long. Sorry. Ruby

Shannon Lawrence said...

As someone who still has letters written to her from friends and family in her childhood, I think that email has caused a bit of a loss that way. However, I still exchange snail mail with several older relatives, so I have that from them. I don't know if email makes one less compassionate or distant, but I think it is a loss in other ways. I still make my kids write thank you notes by hand, address, stamp and mail them, so I hope they continue using snail mail when it matters.

Someone said their penmanship had suffered in their comments. I have to agree with that. I can type fast in terms of wpm, but I am terribly lazy about my handwriting these days.

Good luck with the A to Z Challenge!

Catherine Ensley said...

Our communication is so much more instant now, whether we're talking on the phone or using email or other social media. Letters seemed more special before, because they were anticipated, and it too so long to send and receive one. But as to whether we're more distant and less compassionate, naw, I don't think so. (Although, I have heard that a popular way of breaking up with someone is by texting them. Now, that seems insensitive.)