I read a short piece in a magazine recently by a woman who deplored the demise of “proper” letter-writing. In fact she was urging readers to join her in a sort of penfriends circle and commit their thoughts to paper and then to the tender mercies of the post office. She enjoyed, she claimed, listening for the postman, hearing the thud of a letter on her doormat and then the feel of opening an envelope. removing a letter and sitting down with a pot of tea to enjoy the contents.
At one time I would have agreed with her. Not any more. I hardly ever send letters now. There was an announcement the other day about a forthcoming increase in the price of postage stamps. I suddenly realised I’ve still got stamps I bought in bulk and hoarded just before the last price hike!
It’s not that I don’t write – I write frequently and prolifically, if not always successfully. But email is now far and away the default method of written communication. It’s just easier and more convenient. Snail mail meant I had to write, or more recently word process, a letter and print it off. Then I had to find an envelope, a stamp and walk – or ride – half a mile to the nearest post box. With my imperfect memory I could get as far as putting a letter in an envelope and the leave it on the hall table, or I might put it in my handbag and forget all about it for the next week.
At least with email I have a “sent” file. Email even wins over telephoning. Yes, on the phone you are actually speaking to someone, it is more immediate and you can catch nuances of meaning from the tone of voice. But for a phone conversation both parties have to be available at the same time. With an email you can send it at any convenient time, the recipient can read it at their leisure and decide whether to reply or simply press “delete” – it couldn’t be easier.