With the rain’s return to the Pacific Northwest, and with muddy trails and backed-up storm drains and a looming disincentive towards all things outdoors I suddenly have spare time. Time, I suppose, to catch up on the nice-but-not-urgent conversations I’ve been neglecting over the summer.
If only that were as easy as it sounds. Digital-age correspondence means navigating a crowded field of chat apps and video-conferencing tools; social and peer-to-peer, realtime and async, IP and LTE. Tack on the preferred local platforms for any conversation over international borders, ditto for anyone in InfoSec.
Marshall McLuhan’s aphorism has its heart in the right place: every channel comes with baggage. Video-conferences are extended, relatively formal events, though we’ll squeeze a dozen text messages in the gap before they begin. Twitter is loud, fast, and furiously interactive. Email lends itself to more thoughtful, contemplative exchange; its analog progenitor is more deliberate still.
Hold that thought.
Analog mail has plenty going against it. It takes days to deliver a single message, an eternity compared with the millisecond latencies we’re conditioned to expect over the wire. Filling a page is a daunting prospect, if not physically painful for an unpracticed hand. Then, once the letter is written, we still need to address an envelope and postage. Small wonder that we wind up trafficking in digital bits.
Still, rumors of the Postal Service’s imminent death have so far proved overblown. Some of that’s Amazon; from my observations, sample size one, much is unsolicited direct mail from marketers running end-around CAN-SPAM restrictions. But every once in a while, real, delightful mail slips through. A postcard from a distant adventure; a letter from a friend. The sort of thing that makes it worth opening the mailbox every afternoon just to see what’s inside.
This November–Notevember, if you will (sorry)–I’m going to try a little experiment. Every day of this month, I’m going to supplement my digital this-and-that with at least one message sent through the mail. A letter, postcard, spare copies of books worth reading. Sure, it takes time, but that’s one of the great things about paper. It’s time to think fondly of distant friends, time well spent, and adventures to plan once the sun returns.
Do I have your address? Send it along and I’ll do my best to send something your way. Because everyone likes mail from a friend, right?
And did I mention? It’s raining outside.