I read this blog entry by Joel Achenbach on the Washington Post the other day about Facebook’s purchase of Instagram. Wondering what the future held for such new-fangled inventions like Instagram, Achenbach looked back at his 1993 article about the rise of email. He appended, in full, the almost 20-year-old piece. It reminded me how we used to use email (to send letters to one another rather than to exchange quick bits of info). It also included his prognostications about the rise of us snail mail devotees enamored with vintage writing implements and the slower pace that letter writing affords. Here’s how he ends his 1993 article:
He says there has been a 15 percent increase in traffic on the Internet every month — the greatest leap in letter-writing since the end of the 1700s, the age of Samuel Johnson, who would think nothing of writing a letter to his neighbor across the street.
Says Saffo, “The people who are on the cutting edge of the electronic frontier are the most avid letter-writers on the planet today. It’s just they don’t use paper. They use screens and electrons.”
Someday, perhaps, the computer revolution that has given us so much velocity in our communication will cause a backlash. A new subculture will emerge that will use inkwells and quill pens. It will champion slow communication, the burdensome writing tools that encourage contemplation and reflection. It will say that handwritten letters have dignity. It will argue that thoughts need time to steep, like a cup of tea.
This will surely happen first in California.
Smart man. I think I’ll go write a letter while my tea steeps.