E-mail: Boon or bane for friendships?

Vickie: It seems like I hardly ever see my friends in person any more. When you work and have kids, it's just so much easier to read and send e-mails at 7:30 in the morning or 11 at night.

In some ways, e-mail has made my friendships stronger.

Hardly a week goes by that I don't e-mail my friends, and they are always sending me updates on their lives, pictures and links to book reviews and articles on politics. But sometimes I wonder if we've become addicted to e-mail.

— — Vickie Aldous Angela Howe-Decker

Angela: I get what you mean about an addiction to e-mail. It's convenient and it has kept me in closer touch with friends and family. My friend Stefanie DeKesel and I were talking about this the other day.

She doesn't e-mail local friends very often, but she loves being able to e-mail those who live far away from her.

"For me, e-mail is awesome. I have family in other countries, and it is only through e-mail that we are able to keep up with each other," she said.

But I worry that it's too easy to e-mail my local friends instead of visiting or calling. Something personal is missing. I miss the physicality of a conversation, the sound of a friend's voice, the expression on her face. What's odd is, when we do get together, I worry that I'm repeating myself because I can never remember what I've already said in e-mail.

There's something about the visual cues that happen face-to-face that make remembering the details of a conversation easier than the details of an e-mail exchange.

Do you find yourself compulsively checking your e-mail as well?

Vickie: I hate to admit it, but yes.

As fun as e-mails are, I agree it's hard to beat face-to-face interaction. I had dinner with friends last weekend. While our kids were playing hide-and-seek, we had a great discussion about the problem of humans and wildlife encroaching on each others' homes. I got to have grilled steak, asparagus and homemade peach cobbler &

all cooked by someone else. Then one of my friends sent me home with "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. The entire evening was a reminder of the limits of friendships conducted through e-mail.

I can't help but mention that the way you and I wrote our column this week reflects why people rely on e-mail. We wrote back and forth via e-mail on Thursday whenever we found time in between a dentist appointment, interviewing sources for articles, talking to our editors, grocery shopping and taking care of kids.

Angela: That's true. e-mail is fast, but it isn't really real time, which is an upside. It beats the many phone conversations I've tried to have while yelling at the kids to put down the cat or to stop eating the Play-Doh.

Still, it can't compare to the sheer pleasure of a real conversation. Good friends, good books, and peach cobbler are a perfect combination. I'm thinking I should get off the computer and make a date with an old pal. Now that the weather is warming, maybe a picnic and a long chat at Lithia Park.

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