My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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an aversion to mail

When i read an aversion to mail on Foe’s blog, it made me smile. And then i found myself repeating the story in diverse social settings all week. So it must be blogged cause i know this is something i’m going to want to re-read a few years from now.

“When he died, piles of letters, packages, and manuscripts sent by admirers were found, none of which he had opened. In fact, the only letters he did open were letters from publishers, and then only very cautiously: he would make a tiny slit in the envelope and then shake it to see if a check appeared. If it didn’t, then the letter would simply join all those other things that can wait forever.”

From an account of Faulkner in The Threepenny Review.

Like Foe, i despise the phone. With a passion. But i can’t say that i like mail that much more. In fact, i just got an email from a dear friend asking if i was going to attend her wedding. And i felt super uber guilty because i could bank money that her invitation was probably sitting in the pile of mail that i haven’t checked since November. It was. I rely on changing addresses so regularly that mail doesn’t follow. I read all of my bills online (i won’t sign up with anything that doesn’t have an online account system). I’ve also opened mail so late that the checks have expired. Then i feel stupid. Of course, that’s what direct deposit is for.

As i get older, i learn to despise all forms of mediated communication. The problem is that context is lost. When i look focused, my roommates know not to interrupt. With mediation, i can usually cue people that i can’t IM. But then there are the spammers. They’ve invaded. Every. Aspect. Of. Mediated. Communication. We’ve got the telemarketers and the junk mail. Email is crawling with them. I turned off SMS because of them. Hell, i have to do blog cleansing more often than car flyer cleansing these days.

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3 comments to an aversion to mail

  • Kate Silvertooth

    It’s enough to make a person long for plain old-fashioned, face-to-face, eye-to-eye communication… that space that is expanive enough for breath and tangled legs and fingertips, and needs no words at all.

    big love,
    kate

  • David Fono

    I don’t think you can blame this one on spam. Telemarketers are annoying, but relatively infrequent. Junk mail is usually demarcated clearly. Then again, maybe I’ve just been overly successful at flying under the radar.

    I’m also curious as to the extent that spam exists in unmediated communication. Don’t you expose yourself to this garbage everytime you go outside? The difference is that we’ve been traversing crowded marketplaces for so long as a society, noise pollution is taken for granted. Of course, unlike spam, that kind of stuff isn’t maliciously targetted. But it’s still annoying garbage, especially when you can’t hear the person you’re talking to.

  • Mediation and spamming

    From apophenia: an aversion to mailAs i get older, i learn to despise all forms of mediated communication. The problem is that context is lost. When i look focused, my roommates know not to interrupt. With mediation, i can usually…