Snail Mail: Too sluggish for modern society?

By on September 14, 2014

Natalie Murphy —

Out of boredom, Olivia Cooley sat down on a sunny day and wrote a letter to a friend. This may seem like a simple task, but in today’s fast-paced world, traditional letter writing has become one of the least used mediums of communication. College students typically have less free time and less money to spend, meaning “snail mail” isn’t a top priority for this demographic.

In a survey of students of a 400-level communication class with a subject focus on social media, over half of the respondents believe personal letter writing will die out within the next 10 years. Out of the same pool, 85 percent said they care about the system. It appears a multitude of students predict the end is drawing near for letters, with or without their feelings involved.

Lisa Hagan, a senior at U of L aiming for a degree in anthropology, doesn’t believe mail will go extinct due to those without access to modern technologies, along with those who prefer handwritten letters. In reality, the possibility of this communication medium dying out persists. “If it were to die out, which I do not believe will happen,” Hagan said, “I feel that society as a whole will become even more detached and self-involved than it currently is, if that is even possible.”

Chad Stephens, another student with a major in biochemistry, reminisced on his past experiences with snail mail. “As a child, receiving personal mail was absolutely one of the most exciting things,” he said.

Today’s focus concentrates on getting tasks done using more efficient and less time-consuming methods. Personal communication through paper mail used to be a commonality, but in today’s society it is viewed as a novelty, as a result of newer, faster forms of connecting with people. Fewer people are willing to wait a week or longer for mail, when there are a multitude of instantaneous forms of contacting people. Fewer children get to experience the excitement of receiving a card or letter as Stephens once did, due to the decline of this practice.

In the survey of students in the social media class, the most preferred communication medium with friends and family was talking face to face, followed by texting. Cooley, a freshman with an intended major in engineering, agrees with these results. “I do love letter writing, but I prefer face to face contact overall,” she said. “If someone isn’t present, letters or phone calls are my next option. Since I’ve come to college, I’ve been emailing a lot as well.”

Approximately 57 percent pf students who participated in the survey found that once they began their college career they received fewer personal letters. “If I were to receive a handwritten letter, I would most definitely reply with a handwritten letter and a phone call to thank the person,” Hagan said. She and other students respond similarly, by combining multiple forms of communication in their reply.

Stephens had a different motive for writing, focusing on initially sending letters instead of participating solely as a respondent. He takes advantage of the mailing system for furthering his education instead of personal communication. “At this point, any letter I write is most likely a letter for my research project to attain funds or for some research/study program,” Stephens said.

Although some students hold onto the traditional form of communicating through personal letters, the majority of college-age adults have moved on to internet-centered, fast-paced mediums. Even so, those forms don’t reveal handwriting, an irreplaceable, individualistic aspect of a letter. But while it has decreased significantly, letter writing isn’t dead yet. Several students continue to utilize this outlet of communication while it remains in existence.

About Natalie Murphy

One Comment

  1. Playa Paper

    September 15, 2014 at 1:34 am

    I don’t believe that snail mail will ever go away. Receiving a letter or greeting card is so rare that it carries so much more weight. It’s thrilling and special. I am also heartened to read that there is a resurgence of young Millennial students continuing this form of communication. You can’t hug a tweet, email or SnapChat. I have an online stationery boutique and my mission is to keep the art of letter writing, sending invitations and mailing cards alive. Follow me on https://www.facebook.com/playapaper. xx

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