Merry Christmas 2010

Old Fogey Email Users

Yesterday, The New York Times - being the paper of record and all – relegated Crabby Old Lady to the “old fogey” category. Signs of that status, they say, are

“You still watch movies on a VCR, listen to vinyl records and shoot photos on film. And you enjoy using e-mail.”

Oh please. That's just lazy reporting. No movies have been released on tape since 2006. Vinyl still has an enthusiastic following for its pleasing and, some say, superior audio qualities. Film too has its uses.

But never mind that. The point of the story is the fading popularity of email mainly because young people find typing in a subject line too time-consuming and email in general “so lame.”

“It’s painful for them,” [James E. Katz] said of email and the younger generation. “It doesn’t suit their social intensity.”

Katz, who is director of the Center for Mobile Communications Studies at Rutgers University, says this is not the death of email, but a “downgrade” of it because young people have more choices now.

“Mr. Katz...said texting and social networks better approximated how people communicated in person — in short snippets where niceties did not matter. Over time, he said, e-mail will continue to give way to faster-twitch formats, even among older people.”

Crabby disagrees – at least for herself. Maybe she doesn't know enough 14-year-olds, but niceties grease the wheels of civility and the people she communicates with speak in complete sentences. In fact, Crabby doesn't know how to think or speak otherwise and unless “Fire” or “Look out” are necessary, she will continue to do so.

Paul Krugman stole another of Crabby's objections before she had time to write this post:

There are very real virtues to old-fashioned email. You can convey a lot of information, if necessary — and it’s information that stays available in the archive.

Plus, the lack of immediacy is, given the way I live, a virtue. In general, I can’t break what I’m doing to talk to you or text you; so an asynchronous form of communication, which I can respond to when convenient, is a huge advantage...

[I]nstant communication is not the future for everything.

One of the reasons Mr. Krugman can't stop what he's doing to answer text messages is that he writes for a living. To be interrupted continuously by any number of people wanting immediate answers means the writing cannot be done.

Crabby learned that when she was still working and was required by her boss to keep an instant message box always open on her screen. Her productivity at that job was pitiful not to mention that when she got frustrated at the interruptions, answers like "get lost" didn't go over well with her colleagues.

The Times' and Mr. Katz's' conclusion about email is based on a survey reporting that visits to such email websites as Yahoo! and Hotmail have dropped six percent from a year ago overall and by 18 percent among 12- to 17-year-olds, although gmail traffic is up 10 percent.

According to the Times, texting changes so quickly even young adults can't keep up. Adam Horowitz, who is only twenty-three, is confused by his 12- and 19-year-old brothers:

“When they text me, it comes across in broken English. I have no idea what they’re saying. I may not text in full sentences, but at least there’s punctuation to get my point across,” he said.

“I guess I’m old school.”

Just think. It won't be long before Adam's brothers will be left behind too leaving egg on the faces of college professors and reporters too ready to consign older virtues to trash bin in favor of kids' passing fancies.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Santa Claus


Whatever changes technology brings, there is still the art of writing the letter.

It's no wonder that kids can't spell, punctuate, or make logical sentences. They even talk in abbreviated sentences.

Who will write the great American novel now? Our language is changing along with the culture.

I love words and clear sentences and the time and thought that goes into writing them (even if I am guilty at times of not doing what I love.)

Well said. What's happening is the death of literacy.

This is an appalling piece of journalism. Nothing quoted supports the initial statement, (which perhaps was added by a sub - who knows?)

In essence all it says is that young people use different ways to communicate than do their older siblings or adults. Hardly earth- shattering. Exactly the same things were said about e-mail.

I agree with Ian. Where was the "fact-checker" for this article? As a retired statistician, I am appalled by the way modern journalists interview two people they know and form a conclusion, in this case about a whole generation. My stepson swears by vinyl records, so when we old fogeys upgraded our technology, he took all our vinyl records and lazer disks of broadway musicals for himself. He is a musician, so he knows sound quality when he hears it.

BTW, the blogs we write are like letters to pen pals, aren't they?

Old fashioned email and the death of literacy. Isn't it interesting that we are now measuring the death of literacy with the demise of email. This old world keeps on spinning, not matter how hard we howl.

PS: In addition to the art of writing letters, it is also my responsibility to do things like go to city hall and speak to my neighbors face-to-face.

I can keep up with technology without buying every new gadget that comes along.

The NY Times does some things right because when sitting down to read the Sunday paper, I savor every word and every page. I expect the paper to keep high standards and it will hear from this grumpy old lady when it doesn't. ;)

Wishing you well, Julie

I like email but don't have very many people from whom I either write emails or receive them. I also enjoy MSN messenger but that's down to a select few friends where we converse on topics like where is art going, what politician was an idiot, our families, what we are doing and we do it all in complete sentences; so our messages tend to be as long as they can be sometimes.

For the feel of a conversation, messenger is my favorite. For sharing a really lengthy idea or explaining something it is email. I won't go to tweets and don't plan to use the email at facebook at all as I don't trust their security.

I think that kids will eventually rebel against this condensing and "get what you want quickly." They seem dissatisfied and plagued with ennui, and it's only time before they start looking elsewhere for personal satisfaction.

Texting is too big a chore on the kind of telephone I'm willing to pay QWERTY keyboard. And, before I can read or send a text, I've got to find my glasses. Again. Dammit.

Cordless telephones completely stumped my father; he kept trying to change the tv channel with it. We all have our technological Rubicons and so will the agile-fingered teens someday.

Nance, I hear you talking on texting. I resisted for a long time, then learned how, only to find it tedious and irritatingly inefficient. My husband still insists on texting, but he's far less prolific now that I only respond with a punctuation mark.

And it was just last week that I tried to change the channel with my phone and cursed Comcast before I figured out what I'd done.

I think texting/Facebook etc. will replace phone calls, more than long form written stuff like emails.

I was surprised when my 14 year old grandson( my computer guru and techie) said he doesn't check his email often now. He said if I have an urgent question or problem about my new Mac I can just text him using my email and his IPhone.
Fine with me. He showed me how to do it and it worked great.

I can remember back about 14 or so years ago how distressed I was when our neighborhood library did away with the card catalogue and put everything on the computer.

I thought I would never learn how to use that system but I did. Nevertheless, I have no interest in texting, tweeting or Im' ing.

My brain is too full of stuff as it is. :)

Guess we shouldn't be too surprised when so many younger people applying for jobs find it challenging to complete an application--even when it's on the computer! I may be old(er), but I don't think the ability to read and write the English language will ever go out of style entirely. Wonder what will happen when members of the Twitter/Facebook generation are confronted with the need to compose a business letter or a letter of complaint to the lender that's threatening to foreclose on their house? Somehow, I don't think "leave a message on my (Facebook) wall" will get it.

I'm not totally anti-New Wave. I have Facebook and Twitter accounts and find using them mildly interesting. Twitter can be fun as well as a quick way to let people know what causes I'm supporting. It's just that they aren't my first choice when I want to communicate information or exchange points of view. I was a journalism major my first two years in college (before switching to Sociology) and I still enjoy WRITING--not texting or IMing--writing!

We seniors are a very large percentage of the population. Isn't it time for some reporter to survey our habits with as much awe and imputed importance as the habits of 14-17 years olds?

I don't usually object to what people say here, but really we make ourselves obsolete by objecting to the way young people do things. Sure the article was dumb, but we know better and really don't need to be so defensive.

I don't/won't text. I turned it off on my phone. As a major in Spanish and English with a reading knowledge (in varying degree of Portuguese, Italian and French, I love
languages(s) I'm fascinated with them and respect them. Text doesn't get it. 140 characters is rarely enough to communicate what's in my poor old damaged brain.

I respect language too much to reduce it to misspellings in the interest of brevity.
If anyone sees a misspelling from me, it's because I'm a lousy, one-handed typist and forgot to run the spelling checker.

The main reasons I even have a cell phone is for the free long distance and emergencies.

My almost 50-year old daughter who is a linguist and language expert texts me regularly. She learned to do this to stay in touch with kids away at college. She also reads and comments on my blog.

R U with it?

I dont know how to text and have never received one. I thought email was new fashioned enough for me. I have just been going through boxes of journals hand written and letters from friends hand-written wondering if I should keep them, but why? Maybe just for their archaic flavour.

After my three grandchildren finished watching Hoowdy Doody - my dear husband tried to rewind the tape in the vcr...guess what they both died - the vcr and howdy...he is caught up in the grip of a stuck tape in a no longer functioning vcr...well so be it for that. My six year old grandson showed me his life journal that he wrote in school - he read it to me - as I gazed in amazement at the impeccible printing of this first grader. It was so logically written with punctuation and he even wrote that his best present. that his parents gave him, was his twin sister. Her journal was not quite like that but getting ther and it is just wonderful to see that children are writing on paper. I love to write letters but have really no one to write to any longer. I made a note somewhere, that I would start writing letters to my grandchildren - so they can receive real mail. Just have to get the ambition. I wanted to have a pen pal for "old farts" in Israel - so I could use my Hebrew before we both become extinct. As for texting - I am still trying to figure out how to use my "free" cell phone...oye vay!!!!

I read this NYT article and the conclusions and predictions are pretty ridiculous.

I use texting and enjoy the short phonetic spelling for a quite different type of communication than when I have need for lengthier discourse via my Gmail. Both forms are useful for me. I don't use Twitter which has yet to be proved to be of value to me. Perhaps its because I'm not trying to hook up with someone when I'm out and about, or trying to keep track of another or have them keep track of me.

I don't use Hot Mail, never have, and don't expect to in the future though I have a message telling me there are "important" messages in a Hot Mail box awaiting me. So if any of you have written me there, you now know why I've not responded.

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