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Me and my e-mail (Apr. 1994)

The University has just spent millions of dollars to renovate Yale Station. A horde of architects and designers has created a sort of “mail palace,” which contains beautiful steel mailboxes, an automatic stamp machine, and even a store that will sell collectible stamps. Yalies of centuries past could never have imagined the grace and beauty of our new post office.

As modern as the new Yale Station may be, the truth is that the conventional mail system is outmoded. The friendly letter processed by the postal system has gone the way of smoke signals and the Pony Express. A few diehards still lick stamps, but a quicker, easier (and free!) way to correspond has arrived at Yale: electronic mail (or e-mail, for short).

All I need to do to send e-mail is turn on my computer, click a couple of buttons, and compose my message right on the screen. After the letter is finished, I can send it to its destination by typing in a special electronic mail “address.” In a few seconds, the letter is sitting in the “in-box” of my e-mail confidant.

I didn’t start using e-mail until this school year, but now I am fairly addicted to checking my e-mail files. My computer has become my own personal Yale Station—and I never have to leave my room.

E-mail means a lot of things for my personal communications habits. In these days of “global communication,” I feel transcendentally connected; e-mail messages pile up in my in-box from all around the world: Australia, France, Cleveland.

The benefits of electronic mail are evident: It’s cheap, simple, and convenient. But the ease of e-mail drags along with it a new, unforeseen problem—e-mail guilt.

E-mail is so easy that my volume of correspondence has increased to frightening proportions. When a letter pops up on my computer, I feel obliged to answer it. Do I really have anything new to say to someone I’ve barely talked to since high school but have been sending daily messages to for a week straight about the merits of cheap beer? Probably not. My friend from high school doesn’t care what I had for lunch, or how my history of art lecture went today. There is such a thing as too much information, and my in-box suffers from a bad case.

My grandmother once told me that a letter is a gift, and that I should never reply just because I felt obligated; when I feel ready to respond, she explained, I could send a gift of my own. Try telling that to Yale students with three flashing messages looming in their in-boxes.

Anyone who wants a pen-pal can feel free to e-mail me at Don’t bother sending me anything through the regular mail, though; I’m trying to stay away from Yale Station, as I have applied to medical school and am deathly afraid of thin envelopes.

Filed under 1990s, e-mail
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