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The Death of Snail Mail


I am part of a generation raised in the midst of a technological revolution during which the internet, email and the personal computer became relied upon by people everyday worldwide. From a young age I was keenly encouraged to participate in the use of technology, which later served to rewire my brain giving me a substantial advantage when required to adapt to and utilise new technology. I am yet another child of the cyber-generation.

Gone are the days of slow, “laggy” correspondence, in which long-distance conversations took place over weeks, months and even years. Gone too, to my personal regret, are the personal touches of the traditional letter; wonderfully crafted handwriting, a thoughtful splash of perfume and a signature sign-off, now replaced by the impersonal, grammar-defying scrawl often found in emails. This may have untold negative effects on newer generations, some of whom will grow up surrounded by the substandard language used within the internet era and consequently arrive at a state of illiteracy. Quite worryingly, an increasing amount of adolescents frequently rely on their technology-acquired language skills in academic settings, with many even using such language in exams.

“It is quite appalling that schoolchildren cannot distinguish between ordinary language and text language. It is something that teachers need to tackle urgently if we have reached the stage where students are making such errors in exams.”

Dr. Bernard Lamb, Queen’s English Society.

Snail mail, although in rapid decline, does remain a favourite for the older generations, many of whom do not possess an internet connection or computer. In spite of this, the number of older people engaging in recreational letter-writing is in decline, with the telephone now muscling in on the turf of the traditional letter. The price of sending a single, lightweight letter internationally is, for the most part, inexpensive, especially when compared with the expense associated with lengthy long-distance phone calls.

The age of the internet has brought about the inception of not only email, but various instant messaging services, social networking sites and microblogging services also. Twitter, perhaps the most prolific microblogging website, allows users to connect with friends to share short messages, or “Tweets”, of up to one hundred and forty characters. Such services have a distinct advantage over snail mail, being faster, more straightforward and relatively inexpensive.

Perhaps it is the future of the traditional letter to lose its edge over modern technology, but it remains unfortunate to see such a once valued medium now rejected and dismissed in place of a more fashionable solution. If we are to lose snail mail, we will lose all of the attached perks and the personal touch of a letter also. Are we doomed to become a broken down, cold society reliant upon the internet?

::Andrew also writes at The Robed Scribe::

June 2, 2009 7:39 am

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