snail mail, email, spam junk chain mail

You may have deduced from my previous post that I’ve been pondering the wonderful invention of email. Right. It’s actually more specific than that. I’ve been asking myself, as I’m sure countless other people did before me; “What is the difference between getting e-mail in an Inbox and receiving snail mail in a physical mail/post box?”

From where I’m sitting there isn’t much of one. Now okay, ladies and gents, if you are sensitive about the issue don’t get riled up just yet! I’m a big fan of electronic communication myself. I’ll be lost if I didn’t have it. So yes, of course I know there are distinct advantages to electronic mail, because

  1. It’s cheap – no paper, ink or stamps needed
  2. It’s fast – can reach the addressee within a couple of hours, if not seconds
  3. It’s easy to manage, file and find later – tag it, drag and drop it in a folder
  4. It’s most definitely convenient – no need to bother with finding the correct postal codes
  5. It’s a lot easier to dispose of when you’re done with it – no need to stuff garbage bags full of paper
  6. It’s kinder to the environment (a.k.a. Green)

So how can I say there isn’t much of a difference between the two mailing systems? I’ll assume that everyone who read this do own at least one electronic mailbox and a physical post box. Please raise your hand if you ever got unwanted pamphlets and promotional material in your postal box. Now, drop your hand if you get some of the same (or worse) type of pamphlets and promotional material in your Inbox. Everyone not falling in either category, please also raise your hands? Uhm. . . anyone? Those of you with hands raised, wiggle your fingers so I can find you please! Nope, still can’t see you. Let’s move on.

If you’ve been using email for a while you’ll know that ‘unsolicited’ messages (a.k.a. pamphlets and such) are considered SPAM or Junk. I like the word “junk”. So expressive, and with such a nice “bite” to it! A nice, tame swear-word if you will. And believe you me, I do feel like swearing sometimes when I find J.U.N.K in my very busy Inbox. These messages still slip through despite some of our ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and mailbox hosts’ best efforts to prevent it from happening. Our Email clients can form a last line of defence if we train it correctly, but it’s still not perfect.

That brings me to chain mail, and to me the most noticeable difference between snail mail and email. Where exactly does it fit in? These type of messages, more than likely, are not something you would choose to receive, so strictly speaking that would qualify as SPAM. It is most likely from people you know and something they felt obliged to share, so you want to think that it isn’t SPAM. The content of these messages are sometimes really funny, sometimes it’s heartbreaking, sometimes it can even be inspirational. Sometimes it is a message that needs to be spread. The way I react toward chain mail (I tend to be a broken link) makes me wonder how effective it really is.  Before that chain is broken, how many people actually read it before sending it on? How likely is it that these would’ve been sent out to every contact in address books if people were asked to do it with snail mail?

Do you have an opinion about SPAM/Junk, chain mail and the general (in)effectiveness of it all?


13 thoughts on “snail mail, email, spam junk chain mail

  1. If I had all the bad luck that all the chains threatened me with for not forwarding… boy things would be apocalyptic! The funniest thing I remember, when I got out of school, at my first job, about 1990, we didn’t have e-mail, we had inter-office mail which were those little folders with the string connector on them. You’d type something up, stick it in the folder, write the other persons name on it and a guy would come around with his little cart and pick it up and deliver it to the other person. Not sure why it was so difficult to get up and walk over to the other persons desk, it wasn’t that big an office, although it was a couple floors I guess. Of course, I’m not sure why today people 10 feet away from each other have e-mail conversations. I’m with you though, couldn’t live without the electronic communications we have available these days!

    • The inter-office mail system you describe sounds . . . uhm, interesting? Don’t know if anything like that is/was ever used in South Africa.

      As for email over the distance of 10 feet – I’m sure I can come up with a whole list of reasons why people do that 😉

  2. Haha. I also tend to be the broken link in chain mail. I used to get these messages from family members that told me how much God loved me, etc. etc. but if I didn’t forward the message to 10 other people I’d have bad luck. What??! I just deleted them and told the senders to quit it.

    I like getting mail, regardless of whether it’s e-mail or physical mail. It’s far easy to send email at any rate. Good post!

    • Thanks!

      It’s because of messages like the one you describe that I wonder if people actually read it (or more than the first line or so) before sending it off again with their name linked to it.

      I can’t remember the last time I got physical mail – other than bills, of course!

  3. Nice post! Something I’ve often thought of too. Chain mail: I’m with you and the others here – I usually don’t forward them. Too many of those chain mail are hoaxes or urban legends. And the “heart-breaking” ones are sometimes scams.

    • Thanks!

      It’s sad that the hoaxes and scams takes help away from someone who actually needs it. I wonder if the people who start it really think about what they are doing?

  4. I’m a link-breaker too! I’ve noticed the frequency of chain-mails seems to have decreased over the years or maybe I’ve broken every link there is and now they can’t find me (one can always hope ;-)) I think I would have believed some of them if they didn’t threaten me with such copious amounts bad luck and dire consequences…just puts one off!

    I rely on my email now of course like everybody else, but I miss snail mail sometimes, coz I used to be a letter-writer and I enjoyed receiving letters. These days, all I get in the mail are bills, bills and more bills 😛 When I do receive a card (usually around Christmas), I get really excited 🙂

    • Any day I get a parcel through snail mail it feels like Christmas 🙂 and it’s even better if I forgot that I’m supposed to expect something in the mail 😉

  5. A thought-provoking post, Clouded.

    I am so relieved to see that I am not the only broken link in chain mail!

    When I *do* receive an inspirational or really worthwhile or interesting ‘chain mail’, then I always delete the “Forward this to 10 people, or something bad will happen to you” threat, before passing it on.

    But I’m with you on the snail mail thing – I LOVE getting letters or parcels or cards through the mail. I used to have loads of penpals all over the world in the 80s and early 90s, so it was particularly exciting to amble down to the postbox, or to take that ‘parcel delivery’ slip to the post office!

    Since the late 90s, though, I hardly ever send mail, neither locally nor overseas – because most of the time it doesn’t arrive. And that’s just so heartbreaking, because it takes time to hand-write a letter, and to make it look pretty, and to find an envelope and a stamp…

    Too many letters and gifts from overseas have never reached me, which is so disappointing. So, alas, now we only email each other. Isn’t that sad, though?

    • Postal services – yes, I guess the only safe (or safest) way to send parcels is with registered mail, but that can get expensive.

      I can’t remember the last time I actually sat down and wrote a letter to someone. As you say, it did (does) take a lot of time to get it send off. I recall writing a first draft of my letters on plain paper and only copying it onto the “fancy” paper once I’m happy. Handwritten letters are precious items.

    • Indeed, they are precious. I used to do the same as you – writing a rough draft, before choosing colourful or special paper, and then I stuck on special stickers to make it even more colourful. 🙂

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