I experienced a shock at my post office this morning. I was served by the same guy I always see there. He told me that his thirty year-old son just sent his FIRST item by mail recently.
Here’s the deal. His best friend is getting married. The guy’s girlfriend insisted that they send something – either the RSVP or a card – by actual mail. I hope he realizes that she was right. I asked about paying bills and other things I use mail for. Nope. The guy pays all of his bills online. Just think, if this guy didn’t have a decent girlfriend, he still wouldn’t have sent anything by mail.
Is that so bad? Things are changing. So what? Okay, sure. I’m not bashing the guy; I’m just amazed that this is even possible. But it also leads me to ask what’s been lost.
A friend and I recently exchanged letters to discuss some issues of philosophy and historical linguistics. No, really, I’m serious. We even hand-wrote the first round. I started to hand-write the second round but decided to type it up after the third major revision of my argument. It was because of this second round of letters that I went to the post office this morning.
There are differences between writing letters and writing email and even differences between hand-writing and typing. Letters seem to demand of us that we reflect on our writing and the views of the other person. Email, on the other hand, seems to encourage a quick and superficial response. Facebook is even worse. Hand-writing apparently leads to deeper thinking and reflection than typing. Moreover, we tend to read the entirety of something printed on a page (like a letter) and just skim something on a screen (Did you notice this sentence? Or did you just read the bold parts?).
So, yes, I think something is lost when we come to rely entirely on electronic communication. Letters are slow and deep like glaciers that scour out grand valleys in the mountains. Email and Facebook are fast and shallow like rain sliding off the parking lot of a Walmart.
While we’re here, I’d like to ask Congress to support the US Postal Service. I’m as likely as anyone to complain about my government doing unconstitutional things, especially when it comes to things like my fourth amendment rights (Did you hear that NSA? Of course you did; you hear everything.). But the Constitution clearly states that Congress has the power to establish a postal system and roads to deliver the mail. The US government does all sorts of unconstitutional things and Republicans pretend to be upset about it and have principles, yet they can’t get their act together to do the things that the Constitution actually asks of them. Fund the #**!!#& post office!