Turning to the Digital Letter


I have always loved sending and receiving a letter or a post card in the mail. This was during the time when opening the mailbox was just a daily mundane routine for me except for the occasional advertisements about the newest deal on ordering a large pizza. So, when I waited for a reply, the anticipation of receiving  a personalized letter address to me would be one of the many highlights i looked forward to during the week. Sometimes a week would lead to two weeks or more, but eventually the letter would find its way to my doorstep. After reading the letter and trying to take in all the details of the events on the other side of the world, it was my turn. I’d bring out my stationary kit with matching paper, envelope, and stickers and write a letter infused with as much character as possible. This routine in my daily life would continue for many years until I discovered the wonderful world of the email.

I heard the term ‘email’ being thrown around here and there and I knew that my parents were active users of this new form of technology. The exchange of letters was in part due to the fact that my parents prohibited me from having an email. I also never put much thought into it. For me, letters as a way of communication was sufficient enough. However, I became increasingly more and more curious about this foreign invention. I even clearly remember today this day the moment I asked my father about the email. He just finished writing a ‘letter’ and clicked the send button. In my naivety, I asked him how long the process was for the ‘letter’ to finally reach its destination. In the back of my head, I was thinking three to five days. I was wrong, completely wrong. When I learned that a letter through email took less than a day to be received, I was flabbergasted. I would not possibly comprehend how a letter could travel so fast. I had to explore this new mode of communication.

To do so, I created my first email account in fifth grade. The process of creating my email address was just as exciting and gratifying as if I was writing my home address on one of my stationary envelopes. After spending a couple of minutes on coming up with what I thought at the time was the most creative address, I was transferred to the home page to create my first electronic letter. I found myself typing away, trying to get as much information as possible into this white box, only to discover the white box was endless. I no longer suffered from the hand cramps of writing too fast or the smudged ink from being left handed. There was no longer any need to decipher the scribble scrabble of my handwriting or that of my correspondent. From rummaging through my address book, I could now simply scroll through my contact list.  Not only could I show my new form of writing to one person, but to many people at once! I did not have to rewrite my thoughts. A process of a couple hours turned to mere minutes. I now had the ability to mass communicate on a more efficient level without the large amount of time, paper and ink.  In other words, I stumbled upon a new world and there was no going back.

I still write the occasional letter, but having the ability to send people links and images no longer requires the use of my stationary kit. It is one object in what would become a series of objects to take up less space on my shelf.


One comment

  1. I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone had that moment where they would ask their parents if they could get an email address and I think everyone’s parents said the same thing back. “No.” I shared your longing for the ability to send instant mail to my friends or relatives, but according to my parents it was aways “too dangerous”. Which leads me to think that how strange it is that even back then, almost twenty years ago, people were already aware of the threats that lurked out around the internet. I guess the internet and new media is definitely democratic because all people can use it.

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