Off the Line: Email is nice, but handwritten letters are better

I have a new toy. Well, it isn’t exactly a toy as it quickly starting become an essential arm of my everyday life.

 

Karen Haviland

 

I have a new toy. Well, it isn’t exactly a toy as it quickly starting become an essential arm of my everyday life.

My toy, a brand new Samung S6 cell phone is an amazing example of fine technology at its best. Yes, I know that those with other types of cell phones might argue the point and from their perspective they are likely right in any such assertion.

But to me my cell phone is the cat’s meow.

The other day, as I was poking around its functions in an attempt to learn about the phone and thus use it to its full intended abilities, I came upon the voice command program.

It didn’t take long before the full implication of how much easier that one app in particular could make my life, especially when it dawned on me that the memo function coupled with the voice function was an ideal tool for making lists.

This was particularly exciting not just because I would have ready access to recording my thoughts, tasks, and things such as grocery lists, but because I realized that the forgotten list scenario could well be eliminated with the use of my cell phone.

I mean, how many times have you handwritten a list and then forgot it? In my household the big joke is that we have to make a list to remind us to bring the list. Funny, but there is a loud ring of truth to that.

There are a lot of times when I get a column idea and it might not always be an ideal time to have to stop, find a pen and paper, and then write it down. I do have to admit that I can’t leave it to my memory. Yes, indeed, this phone will be put to good use.

In fact, my column idea for this week was spoken into my phone and when I got ready to write there was no forgetting my topic.

Then, as I was pondering the nuts and bolts of this column it came to me that while this is a great tool, I miss the many handwritten letters which used to come in the mail on a regular basis.

Now, instead of hearing the mail carrier stop and deposit mail in your mailbox, you hear the ding ding of email arriving.

Email is wonderful. In minutes I can reach out to friends and relatives all around the world in the blink of an eye. I’m likely more connected with email than I was with good old fashioned communication.

But there’s something to be said about the good old days. Just the other day I received a parcel from my auntie in Fort Frances, Ont. Tucked into plastic sleeves were pictures from years ago when the aunts and uncles and cousins would all get together at grandpa’s logging camp near Le Seine, Ont.

Alongside of those was a lengthy missive of reminiscing, several subtle admonishments about my lack of communication and of how much she misses me, my family and those days. The whole package was wrapped in heartfelt love and caring. I was, and am, deeply touched at the thoughtfulness and time it took for this 90-year-old woman to make such a warm and generous gesture.

I have since taken out that package several times and reread it all and looked at those summer-bathed photos. It is soothing. Unlike email. Which, while it does serve a great purpose, is lacking in the human touch.

I am currently reading a non-fiction book. The author, who had a tumultuous relationship with her mother, was clearing out the family home after her mother passed away. Her whole life it seemed that she just couldn’t understand dear old mom. Their relationship was awkward and distant.

Then, one day, she comes upon a container full of letters written by her mother. There were letters from her mother to her grandmother, there were letters to the author’s father who was away at war and then the author found a gold mine. Tucked away in the far reaches of the attic were her mother’s diaries which spanned over 60 years.

Through those letters and diaries, the author finally discovered the true woman her mother was. Along with that discovery came relieving resolution of their relationship and a love and understanding for a woman who just happened to be her mother.

As I was reading that book I wondered what it will be like in 100 or 200 years from now. Will there be old letters to read? Will there be excruciatingly private diaries to ponder on a rainy afternoon?

I hope so. I truly do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karen Haviland writes here every other week.

 

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