Are Hand-Written Cards Obsolete?

by Zoe Pollock

Evan Selinger ponders the place of thank-you notes in today’s digitized world:

People like Nick Bilton over at The New York Times Bits blog argue that norms like thank-you messages can cost more in time and efficiency than they are worth. However, such etiquette norms aren’t just about efficiency: They’re actually about building thoughtful and pro-social character.

Take my six-year-old daughter. When she looked at her new iPod Touch (a Chrismukkah gift), she saw it as a divine labor-saving device. Unlike the onerous handwritten thank-you notes she had to do for her birthday, she envisioned instead sending quick thank-you texts to friends and family. Months later, she still doesn’t understand why her parents forbid the shortcut. And she won’t. Not anytime soon.

Why he’s sticking with the paper version:

At stake … is the idea that efficiency is the great equalizer. It turns every problem into a waste-reduction scenario, but its logic has a time and a place. Social relations are fundamentally hierarchical, and the primary way we acknowledge importance is through effort. Sending laconic thank-you texts to family treats them no differently than business associates.