Sunday, January 29, 2006
Hey Mr. Postperson
To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. ~Phyllis Theroux

Since reading a post on my friend Bethany's blog and reading an article for my feminist theory class which involved looking at women's letters from the 19th century, I've been thinking of my own dependence and reliance on technology.

Under my girl-hood bed is a plastic storage container that holds a sample of notes from my elementary school days. The notes hold sweet words from Kip, Mark and Joey (who now goes by Joe but I can't make the switch) who ask me to hold hands with them at recess and tell me that they will marry me someday. I have re-read those notes a thousand times--laughing and remembering a 4th or 5th grader who was simple enough to find pleasure in friendship bracelets but complex enough to deny boys kisses on the grounds that "I didn't want to have my FIRST kiss on the playground." I have also re-read the notes and cringed at the memory of first discovering the boys in my class were drawing naked pictures of the girls. I re-read the notes and tear up at the words from Bruce who was killed the summer after I graduated. The notes have gotten so much mileage that the writing is starting to fade at the creases. I know that I will have them forever. Someday if I have a child, I will show her and the contents will prompt lots of stories about my childhood. She will probably laugh at the image of her mother holding hands with a boy who isn't her father or at the realization that I was once her age. She will read letters from my later childhood from my friend Jennifer who I left behind when I moved to MI. We wrote letters well into our high school years. I have a letter which contains information about her date with "Chris" who went on to become her husband.

My daughter can also read my journals from that time--and all the way through college. However, if she wanted written word from my mid 20's, she would have to read In the past 2 years due to life, changing technology and laziness I have stopped writing letters and journaling. Instead, I write e-mails, text messages and blog entries. I have unlimited long distance so I have grown accustomed to immediate gratification. When I want to tell someone something I call them. If I have a simple question (like what my sister did for dinner last night) I text message her. Most of my romantic messages from my college and current significant others are in e-mail form. Luckily Drew did write me many "real" letters last year during our long distance. However, we have many more loving e-mails and texts.

What will happen with the technology we have now is obsolete? What happens when my hotmail account that I started in 1998 is no longer functioning? What happens when blogspot ceases operation? What happens when my daughter asks for a letter from her Aunt Kourtney writing about how she met Uncle X (name to be filled in later)? I pull out a variety of printed papers with GMAIL at the top?! I retrieve printed copies of Delightfully Dogmatic? It just doesn't seem as charming. And even more pragmatically, what happens if I pass away after leading a famous, academic life and there is no record of the correspondence I have had with the most important people in my life?!

Worse yet, what if my daughter never asks to see my writings because she is immune to the power of letters? What if her and her childhood friends don't write letters? My 11 year old sister told me that most mornings before school she writes to her cousin Britteney. I assumed she meant a note that she passes to her in the hall. Instead, she meant that she e-mails her. Every morning my sister e-mails before school. Times have changed.


Blogger s. cagney said...

I read countless numbers of criticisms of modern technology. The torrent of media messages that desensitize and dehumanize. But, I think that this is one subject on which I am not cynical (which is a big step for me). Are these technological advances in communication not signs of a human race fighting to stay in contact?

Yes, the written letters are romantic and intimate, to a degree that your e-mails may not acheive. But, I think the reason the letters are so significant is the message they convey. In this case the medium is not the message. Written letters are powerful because they recall a moment in your past when you were connected with someone you love, and maybe it is that memeory that makes us feel this overwhelming nostalgia.

I am willing to bet that you will, one day, re-read the emails you got from Drew and you will remember the lifetime of love you have had and you will remember from where this love derived. Then, you will smile.

Anonymous drew said...

talk about your all-time easy fights. i don't see these tech. methods of communication (txt, IM, email) of humans fighting to stay in contact. they are a shortcut for a generation, as my mom puts it, obsessed with instant gratification.

which do you prefer? vinyl or mp3? intant mac & cheese or a homemade recipe? (two silly examples maybe) the stuff that is important to us we do the right way, the thoughtful and deliberate way - - the stuff that is not important we do the fast way.

i'm not anti-technology, and it *has* helped me keep in touch with some old friends that i probably would've lost touch with long ago, but its not like we don't have as much time as those from a generation ago. priorities have shifted, our plates are a bit more full with so much media accessible to us and simplicity of technology has made these new methods of communication perfectly legit.

the fight may be in the our ability to say we are in contact, not to actually contact another human being. while our relationships between one another are not necessarily getting any stronger, our love affair with our laptop or cellphone is becoming cemented for life.

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