Mailing it in

December 5, 2012

Chumbawumba was playing on the Discman and email was the thang. There was even a movie made about it starring a then box office-friendly Tom Hanks and a version of Meg Ryan with movable facial features.

Back in the day, I would write letters to friends about nothing in particular, and it was wonderful. Under my nautically-themed Hotmail name, I tested out a few puns, tried to think up clever subject lines, and basically just tried to stay connected. Often friends’  letters were trivial, but sometimes they were treasure. While certain missives made me literally laugh out loud, others contained an appreciable intimacy. For me, it was often better than face-to-face communication. Without the distractions of body language or intonation for me to misread and overreact to, I was able to be more vulnerable and fearless—a more accurate reflection of my desired self.

In fact,  I’ve long found the electronic version of myself to be more palatable than the live version. After all, the incessant smiles, chronic mumbling, and goat laugh are a bit of an acquired taste. Email was the perfect vehicle to compensate for some of my social idiosyncrasies. I could think about a response, I could edit, I couldn’t mumble, and I wouldn’t type smiley face emoticons constantly just so I could appear agreeable. In fact, email (and handwritten letters) are probably a major part of why I’m married today. As one-half of a student missionary couple thousands of miles apart, my then-future wife  got to know the written version of me (live version — foibles + puns + alliteration).  I got the better deal of course, as she is lovely and brilliant across the gamut of communication modes.

Perhaps the desire to rekindle the blog has awakened a similar yearning to email again. Both formats are a far a better fit than the phone, which I’ve always feared. Social media also tends to be an awkward match, as it seems to favor the quick responders. I’ve always been more measured than quick, and I feel a little tentative about how to behave in front of a highly diverse audience.

I understand the appeal however, because it’s certainly nice to jot off an update in a few seconds and see several friends respond instantly. However, social media isn’t as personal, and it’s far too easy to dwell in a passive relationship without really engaging.

However, in considering a return to my email roots, I wonder about a few key questions. Do I even have the energy to write an email anymore? Will friends even respond or will they find the effort to respond too onerous? Will my communication with my daughter be limited to monitoring status updates and following her on Twitter someday?

Just typing this post has made me feel quite ancient, like I should be carrying a pocket watch so I can see when Edward R. Murrow comes on. Of course, old people tend to get things done. It may take a coupon to inspire action, but they soldier on. Maybe one substantive email a week would be a reasonable goal. It’s less of a commitment than a daily dose of The Price is Right after all. And sending notes to my students’ parents doesn’t count (my primary use of email right now).

I clearly got knocked down. Will I ever get up again?


One Response to “Mailing it in”

  1. Mom Says:

    We’d love to receive an email from you anytime. Glad that you’ve revived your blog!

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