Now it seems strange
How we used to wait for letters to arrive
But what's stranger still
Is how something so small can keep you alive
— Arcade Fire
While the numbers cannot account for how many emails are personal, it stands to reason that few sent on business accounts are — and that people are often too exhausted from the relentless inundation to compose meaningful letters.
“I very rarely get a long email from someone,” said John Freeman, a literary critic and the author of the nonfiction book “The Tyranny of E-Mail.” He compared the current era, in which “everyone is overwhelmed” by his or her inbox, with his time after college in the late ’90s, “when people still did write long emails” and “there was something exhilarating,” he said, about the upstart free technology that enabled connectivity with anyone.
If there was a golden age of the epistolary personal email, it most likely started in this period and ended sometime in the late aughts.
I truly feel sorry for anyone who hasn't had the experience of a friendship based on lengthy email exchanges. I've had several over the years, with Arthur and Shanna being especially stalwart electronic companions up to the present day. Now, I love writing here in this space, but there are lots of times when the relaxed, personal nature of email is even better for breaking up logjams of thought. I don't know whether it would be more accurate to call it a process of discovery or creation, but either way, it's certainly true that aspects of my thought, and even my character, have only been brought to light in the course of an extended conversation, spanning over days or weeks, where they would have otherwise remained inchoate and unexamined.