Some lament the death of the letter in the digital age. With email, IM, BlackBerries, etc., no one sits down and writes letters anymore. I see it to some extent, but not entirely. I’ve got two case studies.

I often send people links to interesting articles and web sites, and blog about interesting things I find online. Similarily, a friend who lives a few states away often sends me articles and clippings in the mail. A bit slower, but basically the same action, just in a different medium. He sends things via mail, I use email, but aren’t we basically accomplishing the same thing? True, when I get an article in the mail I am more likely to read it in full then when someone sends me a link. I guess the effort required to clip an article, pack it in an envelope, address the envelope, buy a stamp, and stick it in the mailbox does cause me to take the contents more seriously. But perhaps part of that is the novelty of it — because so few individual things come in the mail these days, we take what does come a bit more seriously.

I don’t write letters, ya know, physical letters, anymore. But I don’t think I ever really did, except to pen pals in school or something. But I do have at least one friend with whom I email frequently. These emails are different then most of my correspondance because we can have long, free–flow discussions via email, much like standard letter writing, except sent more quickly. The letters still require thought and effort and time to write. Some are long, some are shorter, but we are conducting a long–distance written discussion, just like the supposedly “lost” relationshps by mail.

Technology changes things. One of my classes this semester is about American capitalist development, and the primary theme is that capitalism advances through technological progress, and this progress causes “creative destruction” — a constant churning of the societal waters. But even though things change, society continues to form and reform in its own image. Sure, people may be living faster, more complicated lives, but that doesn’t mean things like letters disappear, they just change. And I’m not unhappy with where we are today. Still, it might be fun to write someone a letter, print it, and stick it in an envelope, just for kicks.

But nothing handwritten! It’s so hard to read people’s handwriting. I guess I’m just used to clean printed text everywhere. Yeah, yeah, we’re probably losing something there. And by the way, what’s with these new–fangled digital wristwatches? Oh, let’s give it a rest.