Letters vs. E-mail: Communicating through Writing
My grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins live in Ireland leaving oceans and expensive air fare separating us. Through pictures, stories, letters, and phone calls I have come to know the history of my family, what brought my mother to this country, and what a life in Ireland is like. However, over time these forms of communication were not strong and consistent enough to enable me to build an emotional connection and relationship with specific members of my family. I mainly just heard my mother’s point of view and got to know my family through her experiences with them. That was before the invention of electronic mail, a faster, cheaper outlet for communication that can reach anyone in the world who has access to the World Wide Web. Without technology, cyber space, and e-mail I would have very little communication and understanding of my family in Ireland.
Prior to the creation of e-mail, writing letters was the best way to communicate overseas or anywhere a phone company considered long distance. Phone calls were too expensive and the time difference between Ireland and Michigan made it inconvenient to reach someone at a suitable hour. Phone numbers and area codes are also constantly changing while e-mail addresses stay with you wherever you go. While I was in High School my family moved three times, making it difficult for my relatives overseas to keep up with which number was the most recent. However, they knew it was still possible to get a hold of us via e-mail. Communicating through letters was exhausting, demanded time, and required readable penmanship. It could take almost two weeks to receive mail and half the time it would get lost or destroyed. By the time my family received the letter and wrote back I had forgotten what I had asked or discussed in the original letter. If I wanted to send pictures in the mail it would cost more money, take more time to reach the destination, and even if I wrote “handle with care” or “do not bend” on the package it would end up damaged.
When e-mail emerged into the technology scene, I was hesitant at first. If there were problems with one of the oldest forms of written communication what was there to look forward too with using technology to write. Dennis Baron, author of “From Pencils to Pixels” states “The computer, the latest development in writing technology, promises, or threatens, to change literacy practices for better or worse depending on your point of view. For many of us the computer revolution came long ago, and it has left its mark on the way we do things and with words.” (36) I was threatened yet intrigued by the computer and any form of writing capabilities it supplied including e-mail. However, the difficulties and problems involved with communicating through letters had taken its toll and I was ready to experiment with the world of cyber space.