Mailing Days are (Temporarily) Here Again

Is mail becoming obsolete?

We’ve all heard about the financial woes plaguing the United States Postal Service as the volume of snail mail is on the decline.  I doubt mail service will completely disappear anytime soon, usage of mail will continue to decrease as we find increasing ways to communicate, pay bills and transfer documents on our laptops, tablets and smartphones.  However, just as bricks and mortar mail service is becoming obsolete, are other forms of mail destined to go the way of the pay phone and fax machine?

At first, I thought this was just an imagined trend on my part.  However, a few months ago, I had sent an email to my cousin who is a proud member of the Millennial generation (I’m a Gen Xer).  Normally he responds to my emails, but this time I never heard back.  A week later we were hanging out and I asked if he ever received my email. “Oh yeah” he responded.  “I just read it yesterday. I didn’t check my email for a week”.  I was a bit puzzled by his response.  There have been times where I’ve gone 2-3 days without checking my personal email (usually while on vacation), but generally I check it about 3 times a day.  However, going a week or more seemed unheard of  to me, especially from a modern day teen.

Aren’t teens constantly checking email these days?

I couldn’t just let it go, I had to understand how someone in his age bracket could ignore email for more than a few days. “Well” he began, “I mostly communicate with my friends through Facebook or texting. You are the only person who emails me”.

Wow.  I never felt more obsolete than at that moment.  I often catch up on my favorite TV shows via Hulu streaming to my TV on a Roku box, yet the fact that I still use email to actually communicate with people suddenly sounded outdated.  I thought about it a little more.  I do seem to receive less and less emails as the years go by.  I’m not on Facebook, which has irritated more than a few of my friends who also seem to prefer “Facebooking” over email.  I’m more likely to receive a text instead of an email from people I know. At work, an increasing number of co-workers prefer to communicate over instant messaging instead of a quick phone call or email.

This guy is probably on Facebook right now talking to his grandkids…because they won’t answer his voicemails.

Somewhere in the rise of social media and a 24/7 “always on” society, email is becoming a hassle.  Email is the new snail mail.  There are some days where I open up my email for 30 seconds, disgusted that the only messages waiting for me are emails touting current sales from my local department stores.  It feels like those days when you open up your postal box and find it stuffed with glossy advertisements.

Email can also be a nuisance because it can be hacked.  My email account was hacked last year by spammers who sent messages about “Cheap Meds” to my entire contact list.  I figured it was my turn to be targeted as about a quarter of my contacts had previously had their email accounts hijacked.  Say what you will about snail mail, but I’ve never had a burglar break into my house, steal my Rolodex, and send out annoying letters to everyone I know.

Congrats! You Have Mail!  And it’s mostly junk!

It’s not just email that is becoming less popular.  About two weeks ago, USA Today ran an article about how voicemail is perceived as a nuisance by a growing number of people.  The 30 seconds it takes to call voicemail, listen to the prompts and hit the right number to listen to messages feels like 30 years.  Why leave a voicemail when you can text a message instead? In fact, many phones are now equipped to convert voicemails into text messages or emails. I have to admit that when I receive a voicemail, I typically call the person right back without listening to the message.  I then listen to the message a few days later when I ‘m clearing my inbox so I don’t have to look at the voicemail symbol on my phone. Well, at least I’ve jumped onto this bandwagon of detesting voicemail messages.

Please enter your passcode. To listen to your messages, press 1.  To return your messages, press 2. To activate your outgoing message greeting, press 3. To return to…aw screw it. They can just call me back if it’s really important.

What will the communication of the future look like as desktop and laptop computers become obsolete and we continue to look for ways to spend less time on one thing (such as email and voicemail) so we can spend more time on something else (like social media)?  Perhaps in the future we will communicate via devices planted in our head by whomever the leading technology company is at the moment as depicted in an episode of Futurama.

I see London, I see France. No really, I just pulled up aerial images of London and France on Google Maps with the blink of an eye!

Note: all photos images shown in this article are stock photos downloaded from Microsoft Clip Art.

The post above was inspired by the Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Mail It In.

Source Cited:

Yu, Roger. “Voicemail in Decline with Rise of Text, Loss of Patience” In USA Today. Retrieved September 18, 2012 from http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-09-03/voicemail-decline/57556358/1

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15 thoughts on “Mailing Days are (Temporarily) Here Again

  1. I have to say this blog was a great read. I agree with most of it. I am 37 years old, mom of 1, step-mom of 5 who detests my email box. 300 emails in a week and only about 3 of them are communications of impportance. I moved from New York to Australia and my addiction is facebook and skype. Without them, I would have a very limited level of communication with my friends and family back home. For gods sake, we pay $25 a quarter to be able to use my computer here and call a landline/cell in the U.S. and thats for unlimited time. I call a solid 5-10 hours weekly, and video confrenecing is nothing at all and I can see them like they are across the kitchen table. Just to send a small box of trinkets to my family it was over $140.00. I still get my cards and loving letters from mom in my mailbox from time to time, and when I do, I light up and it’s the highlight of my day. Knowing that, makes me write traditional letters myself. There’s no feeling like the feeling of being important to someone special.

    • Hi Kimberly,

      Thanks for stopping by the blog. You bring great insight into modern day communications. I think that is wonderful how you utilize Facebook and Skype to stay in touch, and yet you still take time to write real letters. I used to write letters all the time to my friends in other cities back in high school and sometimes I miss that.

      Because it took some effort to write, I used to always make the letters feel special – from using printed stationary to doodling cartoons in the margins, etc… Email doesn’t come close to re-creating the feel of those letters.

    • LOL – thank you for that. I’m glad I’m not the only one out there with this experience. I had no idea the younger generation was shunning email. That conversation was a bit of an eye opener for me.

    • Hey bottledworder – thanks for stopping by. Almost didn’t recognize you with your new gravatar. 🙂

      I’m not entirely connected 24/7. I don’t have a tablet computer (thought I probably will eventually get one) and I just use my phone for, well calls and texting. I don’t like the idea of linking my email to my phone for the exact reason that I don’t want to be that connected.

      So far, USPS hasn’t reduced service in terms of number of days they provide service, but they have begun closing down offices with lower volume.

    • Yeah, especially when you use those flat rate packages! I also prefer to receive packages via USPS because in my neighborhood, we have postal lockers at the end of each street. So if you aren’t home your delivery goes in the postal locker and you receive a key in your locked mailbox. Otherwise, Fedex, UPS and others just leave the delivery at your doorstep.

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