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to my TV on a Roku box, yet the fact that I still use email to actually communicate with people suddenly sounded outdated.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.
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