“Warm eCard” Cold

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Stephen Rees’ Flickr photostream

My email Inbox is a nightmare. It currently has hundreds of unread messages, a combination of unwanted solicitations, complaints and demands upon my time and resources. It is a seemingly Herculean task to manage it in my attempts to focus on top priorities.

Today, I received something very curious, at least to me: the subject line indicated that someone had sent me a “warm eCard”. It was one of those electronic Holiday “cards” wishing me a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, accompanied by the mandated holiday music track (think elevator music). Receiving this made me wonder – is a “warm eCard” a contradiction in terms? After all, if someone wished to send me a “warm” holiday message, would they not take the time and effort to send a personal note written in their own hand? Perhaps I am old fashioned, if not yet acclimated to the dizzying pace of electronic media. {It is a love/hate relationship; I’m working on it.}

My reaction to this “warm eCard” was, well, Cold.

What do you think? Do you agree or am I overreacting to the inexorable replacement of emedia with bygone days of gestures that are truly personal, a product of one’s hand and mind and not that of a keyboard?

Comments

  1. #1 Bernadette
    December 24, 2010

    I find sending someone an e-card slightly more personal than simply buying a pre-made card from the store, but still very impersonal. Definitely not “warm”. I will always admire handmade cards the most, but at least with an e-card, the sender is actually creating something specifically for you.

    It really does make me think about our social life/work ratios though; e-cards (and other “e” forms of social interaction) are so wonderfully handy and efficient for those of us who are ridiculously busy, but at what cost do we resort to using them?

  2. #2 Barry Cunningham
    December 24, 2010

    I’m dreaming of a warm isthmus,
    Just like the one in Panama …

  3. #3 Ken
    December 24, 2010

    Your argument is probably a re-hash used by people complaining about “warm greetings” sent to them on paper over an impersonal public mail system rather than taking the time and effort to actually stop by and give the greeting in person. After all, how could paper and ink be “warm” compared to a live person in your home?

    Electronic delivery is just another tool when compared with paper and ink. They both are more efficient than personal interaction, but it could be argued they are both less effective since they substitute the written word for a personal visit. In one respect the electronic version may be superior to the paper-and-ink version in that it is capable of involving audio and video as well as words. Paper, though, has the advantage of smell and touch, so I suppose it’s substituting one set of sensory inputs for another.

    In the end, it’s the message that is warm, not the media used for delivery. Any personally composed message will be warmer than any prepackaged message composed by a third party. As for delivery, a personal visit is certainly warmest, but also the least efficient for both the sender and receiver of such greetings.

    If you can’t imagine making time for visits from every friend and relation wishing you a happy holiday, then perhaps it’s a sign that you life has become too busy with diversions that keep you away from those people. Or perhaps it means that, by using modern tools (either paper and ink or the Internet) you can maintain more friends and relationships than ever before.

    Is your glass of eggnog half empty or half full?

  4. #4 Jeff
    December 24, 2010

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. To answer your question, ” Is your glass of eggnog half empty or half full?” – It depends upon what time of day you ask me.

  5. #5 Ken
    December 24, 2010

    It depends upon what time of day you ask me.

    I’ll drink to that.

    The next time I’m near Union I’ll stop by and fill up your glass with some eggnog. In the meantime (and this electronic missive will have to do for now), I do sincerely hope you have a nice, happy, warm holiday!

  6. #6 Lyn
    December 24, 2010

    I am currently based in China, and know that paper mail is highly erratic on a voyage across half the world. (I come from Canada.) The availability of electronic communication is indispensable in my life. Were it not for email and the like, I would hear from people so irregularly that I would be all but cut off. I would like to hug family and friends back home, but if I can’t have that, then hearing from them, seeing their pictures, writing back almost daily with some of them, is just a wonder. I do think e-contact can feel strange, but it can also be rich and ensure real contact and real relationships.
    Happy Holidays all.

  7. #7 drivebyposter
    December 25, 2010

    After all, if someone wished to send me a “warm” holiday message, would they not take the time and effort to send a personal note written in their own hand?

    If they wanted to send you a warm holiday message they’d incorporate it into a sweater in some way, maybe using lasers.

    Welcome to sciblogs. I understand you’re new in these here parts.

  8. #8 Julie Stahlhut
    December 29, 2010

    I do not in any way understand how there is any difference in “warmth” among a letter, a phone call, an e-mail, a text, or a personal meeting. And I’m not someone who has never written letters — I’m over 50, was a prolific letter-writer through college age, and have preferred electronic formats for all of my personal correspondence since I first encountered email in my twenties.

    This may, of course, have something to do with my lifelong susceptibility to losing paper. Write me a “warm, personal” letter on paper, and I will probably lose it on my desk before I finish reading it. On the other hand, I still fondly re-read five-year-old emails from my friends. (Which I have no problem at all finding, ever — they never get mislaid in a pile of scrap paper destined for the recycling bin, they’re backed up on my Time Capsule, I tend to remember whole phrases from them, and I can retrieve them via a search function in a New York microsecond.)

  9. #9 A
    December 29, 2010

    I also get a small number of e-cards sent by various friends, and find them a bit annoying, for these reasons:
    – your e-mail address has now been disclosed to some e-card company; it is not unlikely that this company might later sell your e-mail address to various marketers (if they promise not to do so, wait until they are in any kind of financial trouble, or bought out by another company);
    – you have to go to their web site to view it, most often in form of a flash animation; if you have a bad connection (as I have now, while traveling), it might be slow to load… and then you are indeed disappointed with the elevator music and silly jumping Santa Claus…

    I have no problem with a personal e-mail (with a photo of the family or such, or another decoration), and an individual message (even if such message might be a copy of a message sent to other friends), as I like to keep in touch, and such message might contain more information than a pre-printed Christmas Card with just a signature. A lengthy letter, written in hand, is indeed a luxury; few of us have time to write such ourselves, and thus I understand that I hardly get any such letters.

  10. #10 Fernando
    December 31, 2010

    I do believe you are overreacting. It is only human to feel nostalgic for what is long gone or in the brink of becoming a corny gesture or an already dusty piece of paper, reminiscent of “warm” feelings. I get you; I really do. I use to have someone in my life that was, let’s put it this way, crafty. You know, the homemade delicious foods, particularly the sweets, and all those personal touches that make you feel, well, warm and fuzzy inside. For birthdays, anniversaries, invitations and all those special occasions, handmade, personalized card was the rule. So imagine my feelings when in my latest relationship the closest thing to what, I so inconspicuously got used to, is pre-made, singing, you-can’t-wait-to-close-cutesy-cards( not counting all the e-invites, tweets, and wall-writings). Last time we went out for a nice diner, I received a text to thank me for the wonderful time and to let me know how much love was on the air. Although, a pen and paper was not used to delivered such fuzzy warm feelings, I appreciated as much a those homemade things. I realized that no matter the form of the package when a thought, good wish, or a love word is put out there for you, the important thing is that someone took the time to do it for you. After all, when the brain processes something, the neurons fire up, burn calories and creates heat. This leads me to conclude that when someone thinks of someone it can’t be a “cold,” but rather warm gesture. Yeah, we can all over-analyzed things; like the reason for sending an “warm eCard” and not the real thing or the chemical and anatomical reactions of our fuzzy feelings. In this age, the key word is: adapt. So I am learning to put this word into practice. So my resolution for next year is to NOT OVER-ANALYZED AND ADAPT TO THE CHANGING TIMES. You should do the same, or at least try.

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