You’ve Got Mail!

Source: Getty Images via AARP

A favorite Jerry Seinfeld moment of mine comes not from his TV show, nor from any of his standup routines, but from an interview he once gave on a talk show. He observed that the phone is now completely a tool used for “warfare” with one another. What with caller ID, blocking, direct-to-voicemail, etc., he commented that it appears we go to great lengths to avoid actual contact. His punchline, the one that made me laugh out loud, is that we probably have to return to the days of “Lassie” when a telephone rings in a home and someone yells, I’ll get it!!!!!”

That all came back to me when I read a recent New York Times article about Generation Z, a group generally defined as those born between 1997 and 2012. I learned that this generation is more or less responsible for a trend away from using email. For this specific group, email is a tired anachronism gifted from an earlier period. In their eyes, email is both confining and a time-wasting way to communicate. Reading that made me think of the parallels between Seinfeld’s commentary about phone use, and all the other ways that we’ve since “graduated” to limit meaningful contact in this overly technical world we live in.

From the above article: Part of the whole reason I don’t want to work for someone else is because I don’t want to constantly check my email and make sure my boss didn’t email me,” said Adam Simmons, 24, who owns his own video production company. That’s the most stressful thing.”

I admire his candor. He’s not speaking of a yearning to be creative, independent, or even wealthy in owning his own business. Rather, he just wants to be free of the responsibilities of having to feel obligated.

I’m actually not dumping on Generation Z here. They may be unwittingly leading us away from using email, but I also get that they’re not the only ones who feel this way. Members of my own family, all in different age ranges from younger to older, have similar feelings.

A cousin who is roughly my age bluntly told me a few years ago at a reunion that she no longer uses email, full stop. A nephew, after discovering messages from me sitting in his SPAM folder, finally replied by asking me to consider other ways to communicate with him. He offered instant messaging or social media accounts such as Instagram. I was tempted to cheekily ask if an old fashioned letter might be acceptable; I suspect, though, that wouldn’t have helped me much in the credibility department — a place I probably haven’t inhabited in his eyes for probably 10 years.

A different nephew prefers text messages. He has absolutely no problem carrying on full thoughts and conversations, as I chronically stumble to reply. By the time I respond to a comment or question of his, he’s already written five or six new ones. I hopelessly struggle to keep up with him but ultimately never do. At some point he’ll finish with “Take care!,” and that’ll be that. I may have contributed three complete thoughts. Good ‘ol Uncle Martin

Gorgeous’ daughter prefers text messages also, but she fortunately takes pity on me and faithfully responds to my emails. I nevertheless can tell that it’s not her favored way to communicate (Hi, A).

I get it: email is tiresome for many.

Speaking of letters, do people really even write them anymore? I send cards with what I believe are meaningful notes inside, but I suspect it’s been quite a while since I’ve written an actual long-form letter to anyone. It’s tragically a dying art, at least for me. Perhaps it will one day be an offering at a community or extended learning course: “The Craft of the Hand-Written Letter: A Practical Introduction. Three Credits, $85 (stationary and envelopes not included)”

Source: Good Morning Gloucester

Ah, but I’ve digressed, haven’t I? Sorry. I found the above picture on another blog and couldn’t pass up the chance to use it here. Do me a favor and visit the good folk at Good Morning Gloucester so they don’t think of me as a complete thief who can’t even be bothered to write them an email asking for permission. Oh, wait…

I must submit to you, however, that I am mourning any possible decline in email use. For years now it’s been my preferred way to stay in touch with people. I’m only speaking of personal email here, not those ugly SPAM messages or business-related missives. Unlike instant or text messaging, which screams “Hey! Respond to me now no matter what you’re doing at the moment!,” email is non-intrusive. You can write it knowing that you won’t be interrupting someone eating dinner, watching a show, taking a nap, or heaven forbid some other activity that I really don’t want to know about (Uncle Max, seriously, just tell me that you’re otherwise occupied). Email is passive, and that’s why I still prefer it.

I have tried all of those other “messaging” alternatives, especially the ones on social media sites. I dislike their message protocols because I can never figure out how paragraphs work. I hit ENTER thinking it will go to a new paragraph, but the message instead is sent off to a recipient before I’m even finished writing it. This design is intentional; it’s based the old KISS Principle of management (“Keep It Simple, Stupid”). If you can’t say it in two or three sentences, don’t bother.

So for all you email haters, just know that I can change and roll with the times if I am forced to do so. I’ll respond to your various texts and instants, and I’ll be as brief as I’m apparently supposed to now be. But just understand that my mind joyfully operates in full sentences, multi-syllable words, and punctuation which fits neatly into paragraphs.

TBF, I don’t care if you look at what I write as TL;DR. LOL and ROTFL as much as you wish.

And for the rest of you kindred, verbose spirits out there? Write me an email! I promise I’ll respond.

Until next time…

Happy as a clam

45 thoughts on “You’ve Got Mail!

  1. Deb van de Water

    Oh, I remember being taught how to write and address letters in school! I don’t suppose that is on the curriculum anymore. I love sending and receiving cards (and dare I hope…letters, even email letters!!!). I think the pendulum is swinging at least a little bit the other way…there seems to be a lot of interest in bullet journalling, for example. Which is as non-digital as it gets, although it is for personal consumption only and not for communicating with others. Can you imagine making one’s blog non-digital though? I see us cranking out a post using an old-fashioned mimeograph machine, and then stuffing envelopes and mailing them out. Uh, no thanks…

    Deb

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved the title and the message because I’m with you on email although I have the same issue with younger family members. I don’t mind texting and do frequently, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent a message before I was finished, hit the / for the . or just hit the wrong keys with my old thumbs that were trainer to hit a space bar. One other thing about email is that I can write something, let it sit, and go back to it in case it needs to be ‘adjusted.’ So, I’ll continue to look for you in the email inbox and smile when I see you there. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My kids were born in 1983 and 1988. As far as I know, they may use email for work, but never to communicate with others in their personal lives. Dan’s son doesn’t email either, as far as I know. However, at least for us, they feel no urgency to respond to texts quickly. They’ll respond, but it may be 10 minutes, a hour or more, even days. I probably have gotten away from email a bit, too. Now, when I text someone, Dan will almost always say, “Why don’t you just call them?” And I tell him he is showing his age! As far as handwritten letters, these may be headed to museums soon! Now, I do have to admit, when I do receive a personal email, I feel happy, and I do respond by email.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi. Like you, I have no problem with email. I do text messages with some people, because they seem to keep a closer eye on their text messages than they do on their emails. But I prefer emails myself. As for writing pretty long letters on paper and mailing them, I do that maybe once a year on average. See ya.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am gob-smacked! I knew that the younger folk didn’t care for voice-to-voice communication. But email? Say it isn’t so! I ❤ email!

    Interestingly, I had a thought today about condolence cards – a Facebook friend announced her brother's passing. We all clicked the appropriate emoji and shared our sympathies. And I thought, That's it, isn't it. No one will write a card, will they? I know I won't.

    Not sure what I think about all of this. But I do know I enjoyed this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Maggie! Yeah ’tis true the younger folk will do anything to avoid having to have a conversation. I’m not sure I understand that.

      Re: your Facebook anecdote. Yep, no one is going to send anything. It was all done digitally. For a death? Geez.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fabulous post, Marty. I’m with you all the way. I use email incessantly. I text with a few people, but don’t really get the advantage. Mind you, I use full words and sentences rather than the popular shorthand notation, and I think email’s better suited for that. Texts and emails come on the same devices and both make a sound when they arrive, so why texts are favored is beyond me. Young people can’t write letters; they aren’t taught to write in longhand! I wonder if they can write college essays using just abbreviations?!

    Like

  7. Hi Marty,

    Interestingly, the same NYT article mentioned that Google Docs is a preferred tool by the under 30s. I have read a lot of complains about it as it is…cumbersome. It requires time….to log in…check the document, make changes…wow!

    All that aside and the predictable ageism that never fails to set “artificial” groups against each other…
    Communication “these days” has to be fast and immediate, so no one needs to “contemplate” or “ponder” or “revisit” or use some introspection…sent..done..what is next?

    It seems efficient.

    Writing emails to some people (not age related!) and hoping that they see more than the first paragraph is nearly impossible. Better to text and use only one item per text to account for the short attention span. Time consuming…and prone to mistakes…but OK I get it…email does not work for them ;). It gives them anxiety! I think there is a lot to unpack here….and I doubt that email is the sole guilty party here.

    Despite the above, I love text and DM for certain purposes, but won’t call it a “visit”. As a therapist I am very aware of how often misinterpreted text messages have caused high anxiety.

    FT and an old fashioned pre-covid in-person get together…that must be a waste of time for those who are so incredibly efficient.

    Good post…

    Elisabeth

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Elisabeth, you really hit the nail on the head when you conjecture that email is not the guilty party here. Indeed! I blame social media and perhaps the entertainment industry for the general lack of attention span now. There is a lack of contemplation for sure. Look at sitcoms on TV with the rapid-fire dialogue. I’m always struck at how on the old shows (Odd Couple, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, All In The Family, etc) they would set up situational comedy with so much more time. A viewer could sit back and enjoy the elemental waiting period for the eventual joke. That’s gone now, or so it seems.

      I have a sister (older than me, btw) for whom I have to write VERY short messages. My paragraphs are always two sentences at most. Anything longer and I know she won’t read it all. Sigh.

      Interesting observation about Google Docs.

      Thanks for your insightful comments!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. So timely! My niece’s kids (my niece is my age) do not use email often. If I send them a message, it may take a few days before I hear back. I don’t understand it at all because for me texts are cumbersome even if I use voice recognition (which has trouble understanding me). I can type off an email, review it to make sure it says what I want and send in a lot less time than a text half the size. At least two of my stepkids (who are 50-ish) don’t respond to emails so I’m flummoxed as to how to get a hold of them. When their dad was ill, I sent an email out. One daughter never read it until another daughter talked to her a few days later. She told me to use her work email address as she “has to” keep on top of that one. I’m terrible with the phone. I can type out a message in a few minutes. If I call the person we have to go through the pleasantries and it will take at least a half hour. It’s hard to keep on top of all this. BTW my 15 year old granddaughters don’t appear to respond to anything at all. Maybe it’s just me they don’t respond to.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. During childhood, especially during school holidays, my mum would say, ‘I’m going to have a little chat with Betty’ (or whoever)… and then she would WALK OUT THE FRONT DOOR AND VISIT! Can you imagine?

    And when the person wasn’t within walking distances, she would WALK UP TO THE PUBLIC TELEPHONE BOOTH in our street.

    You try telling that to the young people today. They’ll laugh like you are demented. (Which is, of course, a possibility).

    Great post, Marty.

    – Bruce

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will not stand for blasphemy on this blog, Bruce. Walking up to someone’s home for the sole purpose of an unannounced visit with someone to talk. Go on with you and your made up stories!

      Oh, man, what a concept that everyone used a nearby phone booth. Yes, to young people that’s like those “tall tales” we tell about getting up from the couch to have to change the channel using a knob! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Barbara -

    I admit to being a full on text person. I rarely communicate by email. You can text someone whether they are busy or not, in class or not and on a different time zone. I am not two thumbed as my daughter is by any means. I also do some FB messenger stuff. My email is almost exclusively for business or part time work in retirement stuff. I’m with th younger in this. I have kids born in 79 and 89 so slightly older than you grouping but they are the same. And yes we do talk on the phone!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I like different modes of communication for different things. I mostly prefer texts because the messages are short and (usually) sweet and I get them quickly and can respond (unlike email where I have to be on my computer or ipad AND logged into my email service). I find that I get a lot of stuff in my email (besides notices of blog posts) and I’m not just referring to spam. Just about every company I do business with wants to send me advertising. Annoying.

    So, I’m very curious how the Gen Zers get their important communications, like from doctors or their banks, etc. They may not like email, but I’m not so sure these old school services have another way to communicate. Since I don’t have kids, stepkids or grandchildren, I expect you to find me the answer. You can email or text it to me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! An assignment, I love it! 🙂 Yeah, that was the thing about my cousin’s announcement that she’s no longer on email. I remember thinking at the time that I bet she probably still in fact does have her address precisely for the reasons you point out, Janice. Doctor offices and banks aren’t going to change their ways now. So I suspect she meant only for personal communication. Her choice obviously; I have to respect it. But I’m sure she still has an email address.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. m2muse

    So many ways to communicate. I’m of the opinion that there are just more ways NOT to communicate. Individuals have a preferred method and which do you choose? I’m always amazed at what I don’t need to know when methods of communication don’t jive. Doesn’t anyone talk anymore? I still have a landline (WHAT!!!) without call-display (WHAT!!!). When I want to know who’s calling, I answer it when it rings. My mobile phone is just that – a phone. I don’t tolerate the interruptions of the mobile phone (call, text or email notifications) when I’m out and about. I hear many comments about the joy of receiving something personal in the mail.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love your response! WHAT!!! lol We have a landline also (which officially is my wife’s business line), so that’s the phone I like to always use when I need to call someone important. I don’t care what anyone says: a landline’s reception is always better than a mobile phone.

      Like

  13. Aw gee, what a can of worms! I thought the Pandemic opened up the realization that we all need to at least have the opportunity to communicate and not pontificate (albeit in 5 word sentences) – you know, interact?
    I will say that once I figured out most of my family/friends and even work associates respond to my text announcing an upcoming call – that really is a convenience. I like being on the recieving end of one of those texts, too, cuz then I can make sure I’m not brushing my teeth and taken by surprise by the call. Sure beats hanging around the landline waiting for a call and/or continue calling an otherwise empty house.
    Anyway – once again I’ll add my soapbox quip, “Why is it always ‘instead of’ why not ‘in addition to’?” whenever there’s more options added to our lives…we’re all different, ya know?
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah… “In addition to.” A fair point, Laura! I agree that (for me) one nice feature of texting is that ability to arrange for a phone call. So many times in my life I’ve always called at the wrong time. So that is admittedly convenient.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. debscarey

    I’m one of those rare beings who likes to talk on the phone Marty, and I rarely think to text ahead to ask if it’s convenient. I assume if it isn’t, that the person I’m ringing will let the call go to voicemail, but I do get people texting me to ask which I’ve learned to accept as just their way.

    I also like email for it’s ability to be sent via a proper keyboard where I can type with all my fingers (and thumbs) rather than having to peck out a text message on a phone. I do use WhatsApp now for the daughter & other family members, but still connect up to it via my desktop for longer messages.

    I love writing letters in long hand. Something about using a pen (fountain pen not biro) and writing on lovely paper that is so enjoyable. Unfortunately, my handwriting is atrocious and so I had to give up the habit after complaints of the time it took to transcribe my letters!

    Nice post Marty, it brought many a smile of remembrance 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Deb! You make me laugh about your handwriting. Mine is awful too, so any “letters” I do write are always done on that proper keyboard you mention, which I then print out on paper!

      Honestly, I hardly speak to anyone anymore very much. A good friend of mine recently set up a time to speak, and we both realized it had been over a year since we had done so. I worry that we’re becoming a society of loners.

      Like

  15. I got a mothers’ day card from my youngest daughter…Saturday. It was addressed upside down, and the stamp hadn’t even been cancelled. I attribute the upside-down-ness to her (and my) left-handedness. but not sure about the cancellation of stamp. Might re-use it. At least she knew how to address it.
    I despise texting. I NEVER use those initials as a shortcut for the real word. It just seems wrong to me, and I always use the correct punctuation. As far as email…I rarely email anyone. I used to email my children, but I’ve been excommunicated. Sigh. I’d email you, but I don’t know your address. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s crazy about card you got so late. The mail really is crazy now with slow-slow-SLOW service. I switched all the remaining bills I get to e-bills, even for the local water department, because I don’t trust that the post office will get it to me, or my check back to them, in time. I’m paying everything using online banking now.

      I feel similarly about texting. Believe me, I never use those abbreviations either! I like the technology when I’m at the store, and I can’t recall which product to buy. That’s when it’s helpful because I can text Gorgeous and just ask her. 🙂

      I have an email address for my blog listed on my “About” page, Laurel. Feel free anytime! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh! You misunderstand. She didn’t mail the card until the Thursday before. That little voodoo child of mine. I’m still waiting on the Christmas present she said she was going to send….two years ago.
        I’m a bit leary of on-line paying of bills. I do have my cable and Discover bills taken straight out of my checking account, but everything else, I pay by snail mail. The only one I worry about is the water bill. It sometimes gets to me two days before it’s due and they will slap a five dollar late charge on you quicker than you can say snot-buckets if it’s late. Fortunately for me, the water-bill-paying-place is just up the street.
        I’m going to check out your “about” page. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah, so sorry I misunderstood. Ugh, that is sad about how she treats you. You deserve better.

        I was leery about e-bill paying too. Like anything it took a while to get comfortable with it, but now I’m glad I do it’s very convenient. Our local water bill is always a nail biter also! 🤓

        Like

  16. FWIW, I am all for email communication.
    Why should I use text, FB messenger, Wechat, Instagram or any other form of Social Media?
    IMHO that’s too many sites to keep up with and most of them provide nonstop distractions!
    I know if I did switch from email, whatever new communication I chose would soon be passe.
    I love this post because it made me realize I am not alone (other people were also born in 1958) :D.
    And, this has given me a great excuse to brush up on my text abbreviations and acronyms!
    TTYL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, this comment of yours made me laugh, Donna. You hit the primary reason why I have problems switching to (multiple?) sites to communicate with people. I already have an appropriate way for people to get in touch with me! Thanks for the laugh. Seriously. 🙂

      Like

  17. I like emails in theory. When they first came on the scene I was enthralled, but over the years I’ve come to view them with suspicion. I’m far from Gen Z but I get their point of view. People send me email messages when they want something, not to reach out and say “hi!” At least with a text, the conversation gets to the point quickly and is in the moment. I don’t have to fret over it for hours or days after, wondering if I’m supposed to reply again to the email.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, definitely different strokes then, Ally. Most of my personal emails are catch-ups and anecdotal about life happenings. But a sister of mine HATES them because she sees typing as work. Of course, she’s also hard to get by phone too. But that’s another matter entirely. 🙄

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Such a brilliant post! Reminds me of a letter I got recently from my 93 year uncle. He wrote 4 hand written pages because it was “too much info for an email.” So thankful for his time and to get actual mail. I’m very happy to get an email too, though they are more and more scarce these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I am a fan of Jerry Seinfeld and how he can turn absolutely nothing into something relatable and funny. I am embarrassed how much email arrives in my inbox daily. Overwhelming. I do like how I can respond at a convenient time for me. We are a texting family, even my husband and I in the same house……sometimes not in the mood to climb the stairs or yell on the top of my lungs. Autocorrect still gets me into trouble.

    Thank you for sharing a fun and relatable post, Marty. (I am trying to snoop at some of the do hickeys on your desk……a wooden type of thing on the far right on the lamp base?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, I think that’s the small Bhudda on my desk, Erica. At the moment, I’m too lazy to get off my duff and go have a look! lol

      I’m probably an outlier on how I feel about texting. More people seem to like it for its convenience, so I better get my brain turned around about it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Your desk looks so organised Marty! I keep up with my friends and family through text or chats or video calls. No emails! I find it tiresome as I’ve only one regular account and I have like 3000 emails in there that I can’t be bothered to sort. Once in awhile I’d search a word and delete them. Mostly junk mail. As for work email I haven’t had a look for weeks now. It’s probably piled up. All I do is delete them.
    Mr Wanderer gets 700 new ones in a few days that he has to respond for work! And about 6000-7000 in his email account. So no use contacting him by email.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s amazing to me, Vy. Both you and Wanderer ending up having to delete! But I get it; not everyone has the same situation going on. I think my main issue with texts is the immediacy of it all. I hate the interruption when I’m doing something else. At least the email can wait, but I feel I have to respond to the text each time. That’s on me, I guess. lol. The desk has to be neat because it’s to tiny!

      Liked by 1 person

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