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Dec 28, 2006: The Post-Postal Era

WARNING: narcissism aheadAs part of the pre-move purge, I've been rooting through a box of correspondence that's accumulated over about 25 years. Until MJ beat some sense into me, I was a terrible pack rat, so now I'm stuck with the task of winnowing through holiday cards from people whose names I don't recognize, birthday cards from people I'd like to forget, and actual letters—remember those?—from people I really miss.

Oddly, or maybe not: from my sample, letter writing appears to have ceased in 1994, and I'm wondering why. Did people just stop writing letters because that was the year so many people got hooked on email?

Seems like a likely tipping point, but I'm not ready to go along with this particular theory. What else happened to me in 1994? I turned 29; does our social circle change so radically as we enter our 30s? Hmm. What else? My free agency terminated (MJ and I hooked up the following year). I don't recall any of my many stalkers walking in front of that ubiquitous bus. I did leave my PhD program. (If this somehow explains it, well, all I can say is that it was a more than fair trade.)

Have you experienced a similarly abrupt end to receiving letters? If so, what's your explanation?

By the way, I am saving them all. I can always get rid of them next time I move.

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Comment: Lou (Dec 29, 2006)

Hmm, another theory. Maybe I became a far less likable person in '94?

Comment: Colleen (Jan 2, 2007)

I do recall 1994 being the year when I, a mere amateur, became aware of email. I'm not sure I used it with any regularity until maybe '95 or '96, but I'm sure you were ahead of the curve there.

I think one of the sad unintential effects of our largely digital world is that we're less likely to save those ephemeral notes -- and though some of them might seem worthless now, I bet there are some real gems, too. Maybe a funny note from a friend you've lost touch with? A birthday card from an old aunt who's since died? Your first flirty note or two with MJ? It's the stuff that's too easy to delete when it's all electrons, but sentimentalists like us hold onto it when it's tangible.

What will your biographer have to rummage around in 40 years from now?

I'm sure there are some archivists in your librarian world. Rather than fighting the urge to pack rat, what are you doing to prevent us from deleting a record of how we live today?

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