The non-email: who will respond?

This is my attempt at the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Mail It In.

In high school, pre-cell phones and emails and texting, I used to write long, over-indulgent letters. The letters were to people I saw every day. It could be an extension to a conversation we’d had, or thoughts about something I didn’t want to say aloud. I anticipated the response and found the idea of getting a piece of paper in my handmuch the same as a letter in the mail: it was secretive, it was unknown, and you got to read something. Plus it was personally addressed – no form letter or group announcement.

Now I check my email with that same anticipation and interest. I get a lot of junk mail, but it’s quick enough to skim through and hit delete. A well-thought out email takes time, much like a letter would. Typing is certainly faster than writing out the words with a pen, but the thought process is much the same. It is written with you, the recipient, in mind.

I check my email like some people drink coffee or how others go running, with a sense of purpose and anticipation. It’s there, it can’t wait, and I must know what has happened since I last checked. Generally I wake up and check my email before I get out of bed. My phone quietly buzzes incoming messages and I can quickly scan to see what the day brings: new blog posts to read, new comments on my blog, updates or announcements from school, reminders of appointments I’d forgotten I’d made and the general retailer spam. Sometimes the occasional personal email from a friend.

My issue with email (much like the "like" on Facebook) is the etiquette behind it. There is none. I can write a well thought-out and heart-felt email, or I can scribble a few lines to say I am busy, but the response can be the same. The thing with email is that we expect a response. The irritation I feel is when I get none. There is no life from the other end of the tubes and wires through which I sent my thoughts.

People may not have the same sense of urgency in responding to email anymore. Generally we read them, remind ourselves to respond, and then go back to reading more emails or get distracted by something else. Then the (possibly) flagged email sits, waiting for us the next time we check our email. We remind ourselves again to respond, and again are distracted. Or we write half the email and forget to hit ‘send.’

Unanswered emails feel like neglect, something I am certainly guilty of. I don’t mean to neglect my friends. I don’t have an excuse for why I don’t write back. Being on the opposite end of the neglected email friendship, the anticipation for a response is wearing on me.

Perhaps I write (and receive?) less personal emails because the response rate is so low. Maybe if I do want to share my ideas I need to employ different tactics. I could use communication that is more succinct: I could actually pick up the phone, or I could just text someone.

Failing that, I’ll just mail a letter and wait. A reply can’t take that much longer than typing a few words and hitting ‘send.’

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18 thoughts on “The non-email: who will respond?

  1. I think I’m opposite you when it comes to liking emails…. which probably means I’m also one that breaks any form of etiquette. As much as email annoys me, I do completely agree that it’s hard when we don’t really have established etiquette. Thanks for the post – because of yours, I discovered the daily post challenge and wrote one of my own!

  2. I have to admit that I use email and texting as a way to avoid the phone. Spoke to a friend the other day and realized it was the first time we had spoken on the phone instead of in person or by text, FB or email…and we’ve known each other for over a year.

  3. Email is a love/hate thing for me. I have a friend from the past and the only contact we now have is through email. It’s almost like having a pen pal. I’d much rather text or email than call on the phone. I guess I enjoy writing more than speaking, as impersonal as that can be.

  4. I bet you would get a tonne of e-mail replies if you posted a handwritten snail mail letter again on some good quality paper, with a card. I liked your description of the screeds some of us used to write to friends while still at school. Did you also do awful poetry at that stage? (I destroyed all mine, and no animals were harmed during the process.)

    • I think everyone is drawn into some sense of nostalgia. Some nice papyrus and hand-written letters would bring back memories.
      I stayed away from poetry! though I was on the receiving end of some. I think I’ve fed those letters to the shredder.
      Thanks for commenting.

  5. Pingback: Jess’ Pet Peeves | Essentially Jess

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