Bringing in the mail is one of the few things we all still have in common.
We all laugh, we all love and we all get mail.
When you stop and think about it, there aren’t that many fundamentally human experiences that we all share anymore in this age of autonomy. And precious few of those could be said to draw an emotional response. But like welcoming a friend to our front door, receiving mail is one of them.
The sense of anticipation that comes with receiving envelopes, catalogs and packages to our home has even been given a name: the United States Postal Service (USPS) calls it The Mail Moment®. It’s that fleeting thought, that subtle flutter in the core of our being that asks – “I wonder what’s in here today”. The reward of that promise could be a birthday card and note from someone special or it could a hefty cell phone bill. Either way, we feel something.
Can the same be said about most of our emails? Sure, e-mail is an efficient way to get an answer for that overdue report, plan that important meeting, and try to keep in touch with friends. But the immediacy of email can also be one of its downsides. Answers are needed or expected right away, creating stress, an emotion we can easily do without! According to Jonathan McCormick, COO of Intermedia, which commissioned a survey of 2,000 American adults, one in five people feel they are under pressure to answer email. Those who tote around smartphones confess to having an even bigger problem, with 37% of them saying they experience email overload. 1
In contrast, people rarely feel pressured to immediately respond to conventional mail making it one of life’s simple pleasures. There’s a luxury of leisure that goes with the printed medium that allows you to casually glance at bills and advertisements, set aside a favorite catalog to leaf through later, and open that handwritten invitation to an anxiously awaited event. There’s something very human about slowing down your pace and taking a moment to savor an experience – even if it’s just going through the contents of your mailbox.
The heart connection people have to their mail is real, and not just for those who get home delivery. For the thousands of communities that rely on the local post office for their correspondence, a trip to the mailbox is more than just a daily ritual – it’s a social occasion. For many, the post office is considered a town’s focal point; it’s where you meet friends, size up the competition and get the latest news. The public outcry at the suggestion of any closure of a local post office is enough to tell you that there’s more to getting the mail than just “getting the mail”.
Humankind has been sending and receiving messages since the dawn of our species, and the grand tradition continues today. The USPS delivers the mail to 151 million homes, businesses and post office boxes, and Canada Post Corporation to over 12 million; they operate 32,000 and 6,660 postal facilities respectively. 2, 3 Unlike digital networks, which reach 78% of North Americans 4, the mail reaches every single adult across the continent – a phenomenal testament to our need to communicate and the continued value of mail in our society.
It seems that, despite our love affair with the electronic gadget, there is still a flame that burns in our hearts for a letter in our hand...
1 Heussner, Ki Mae. Tech Stress: How Many Emails Can You Handle a Day. ABC News. July 2010
2 United States Postal Service
3 Canada Post Corporation
4 Internet World Stats.com