I recently had an experience, which I wanted to share. Times have changed with modern communications. Most people don’t write letters anymore, they send texts and emails. I miss the fine art of letter writing. I love books with love letters in them, or funny letters. Writing a great letter used to be an art, which almost no one bothers with anymore. Some people worked hard on the letters they sent, and I’ve always loved books which include letters, and am sorry letters have gone by the wayside. It’s a lost art now. And text and email is certainly faster and often more convenient, though less eloquent and less elegant. My agent writes some wonderful letters, and I always admire the elegance with which he can turn a phrase!!! My own letter writing is a little rusty these days. Who has time to write a great letter? Most of us don’t.
And a definite downside of sending emails or texts is that people don’t take the time to measure their words, or even control their emotions. Nothing brings greater relief when you’re angry than firing off a furious letter to the person who has offended you in some way. But in days gone by, people would write an angry letter, and put it aside, think about it, edit it, maybe soften it a little, or not send it at all. A letter gave you time to think and weigh your response before you sent it. An email is an immediate response or reaction, you can write a white hot furious email of reaction, hit ‘Send’, and instant gratification: you can drop a verbal bomb on someone within seconds. BUT that’s not always so wise. There is no cooling off period with email, no time to think or reconsider, you can nuke someone who pissed you off instantly!! It may feel good for a minute, but it’s not always the smart, or even the right, thing to do. It encourages people to be impulsive and sometimes over react. And once the email is out there, it’s too late to do anything about it once you calm down.
The other feature I don’t like about angry emails is that there is a great anonymity and facelessness about the Internet. As useful as it is in many ways, and as much really helpful information we can learn from it, it is also fertile ground for bullies and cowards to write some really appalling emails to people in the stealth of darkness and anonymity—–and with that protection, some people really go nuts and write some shockingly vicious stuff to other people anonymously. I don’t think that’s a good thing. If you’re going to be nasty, you should at least have the guts to own it, not slither around in the shadows.
I recently had an email from someone who didn’t like something I said in a book. They assumed my opinion (incorrectly), didn’t like my point of view, and unleashed an amazingly nasty email on me, and rounded up a bunch of their “internet friends” to also dump all over me. What I received was a slew of the nastiest, rudest, most insulting, inappropriate emails I have ever seen. Unseen, unknown, they felt safe being as rude as they could be, with safety in numbers to be even ruder as a group, calling me names, etc. It was shocking and unnecessary—-but the Internet opens the door to that, people seem to feel remarkably free to be as rude as they want by email under the cover of anonymity. Good manners no longer apply, anonymity carries the day, and some people feel entirely free to be as violent, threatening and aggressive as they want to, and the rules of correspondence, reason, or basic courtesy don’t even apply. We live in a violent world unfortunately, and that kind of no holds barred free form, violence and hostility seems like a very bad thing to me. We should at least be polite to each other, no matter how angry we are. I was shocked at the emails I got and the nastiness that group of people thought was okay, the terrible manners, and the violence of their words. It really was shocking. And it reminded me that good manners still need to apply, and common courtesy. Emails shouldn’t be a license for people to treat others with disrespect. I am all for writing a well worded letter of displeasure, but rounding up a bunch of angry strangers for a lynch mob to verbally assault you and beat you to a pulp lacks elegance and decency, to say the least. I don’t think the internet should be an excuse for people to be rude to others.
It’s something to think about. We all owe each other courtesy, respect, and good manners…..whether on a post card, in a letter, an email or a text. And sometimes the old manners and standards for decent behaviour to our fellow man really are best!!!