How are you? I was thinking of you so I thought I’d write you a letter.
Not long ago, the above salutation was the beginning of our main means of communication --the handwritten letter. Each handwritten note to a friend of family member was not only accepted, upon its receipt, with smiles and opened arms, but the thoughts we expressed were transcribed, straight from the heart, with no frills needed. (Yes, Virginia, there was a time when we, as a society, slowed our fast-paced lives by taking the time to douse a piece of stationery with both ink and love.) In today’s society, however, the question must be raised, regarding where those letter writing days of the not-so-distant past have gone?
In 1971, a computer engineer named Ray Tomlinson, an employee of the U.S Defense Department, invented the first internet-based communications system; a system that he called e-mail. At the time, however, the vast majority of us were watching episodes of The Brady Bunch and placing postage stamps on correspondence to our Grandmothers after requesting that long, lost sugar cookie recipe. Back then, no one cared about electronic, instantaneous messing.
Tomlinson, himself, in latter years stated that his e-mail invention was created for fun and not because anyone was asking for it. We did not seem to need e-mail, 35 years ago. Why now?
There may be only one answer and even that answer could lead to more questions. In this era, we use e-mail as our main means of communication because it is easy and accommodating to our busy schedules, both at work and at home. Because e-mail is easy to use, we are able to express our thoughts more readily; because e-mail is accommodating, we are able to express the aforementioned thoughts and receive any necessary replies in a timely manner.
I, personally, do not feel that the problem with society resonates within the e-mail genre, itself. I believe the problem lies in all of the shortcuts that we have been able to create, as the result of electronic mail. For example, I have noticed that the overabundant use of abbreviations used in our e-mails have become detrimental to everyday conversing.
In recent weeks, I have seen several television interviews and had several conversations with friends in which terms such as IMAO (In my humble opinion) and ROFL (Rolling on Floor Laughing) have been spoken, as their abbreviations. For the e-mail savvy converser, this notation may not been seen as a problem. But, for those who are not e-mail jargon savvy, a discussion using such terms could throw a meeting or a social outing into a cauldron of confusion. I tend to question the future of our society if we allow our dinner table discussions to be overdrawn with abbreviations and shortcuts. When non e-mail savvy parents are unable to understand their e-mail savvy children, due to IMAO’s and ROFL’s, what other moments will be missed? Worse yet, I fear that today’s children will grow to learn that shortcuts and abbreviations are a widely accepted practice; therefore, leaving these children to never truly know the verbiage from which each abbreviation is derived.
The biggest question that comes to my mind when I reflect upon e-mail communication and the seemingly lost practice of letter writing is a mere question of why? Why, decades ago, before the prominence of e-mail, did we stop and take the time to place pen to paper and now, when our lives are every bit as busy, we opt to utilize the shortened, easier communication method? It seems as though, in the recent past, we took time for ourselves by sitting for long enough to physically write a letter; whereas now, we cite being too busy as our main excuse for e-mail usage.
No letter writing? Thank goodness a few of us still believe in an art that will hopefully live 10 times 10,000 years from now and continue to make glad those who enjoy the values expressed in each handwritten letter.
As we approach the New Year, may we all resolve to slow our busy lives for a moment to inscribe a piece of paper or notecard with feelings and thoughts we long to share with our loved ones.
In my humble opinion, two things will be accomplished if we do. Firstly, our loved ones will understand that we took the time and put some sheer consideration into the words we chose to express and lastly, by expressing our feelings in handwritten form; we will have taken a little time for ourselves.
Have a wonderful day and I thank you.
Copyright © 2006 – Jill Eisnaugle.
All rights reserved.
Jill Eisnaugle is the author of the inspirational poetry books, Coastal Whispers and Under Amber Skies. She is also the Resident Poet for KODA-FM "SUNNY 99.1" in Houston, Texas. Jill resides in Texas City, Texas with her family and pets.