Internet dilutes that human touch

A side effect of this saturated Information Age is the loss of human touch, at least in the areas we expect to find it.

In Federal Way, the police department encourages residents to submit reports online for non-emergencies or lost property. Police departments nationwide, including those in Tacoma and Seattle, also accept reports online.

Of nearly 1,600 reports the Federal Way police receive each month, about 200 are filed online.

Some Federal Way residents lament the impersonal exchange of information, but online reports make sense, if only to allow police personnel to focus their energy on urgent matters.

When spending taxpayer money, public entities must strive for efficiency while playing catch-up with a growing population. Online reports provide one cost-effective avenue to achieving a proper level of service.

In time, this self-serve approach to filing certain police reports will become routine for computer-literate generations. However, when residents reach out to police, they also seek reassurance. People contact police after a violation of their well-being, not to say hello or compliment the department’s service.

The police department provides safety as well as peace of mind. If a Federal Way resident wants an officer to respond in person over a non-emergency, the resident needs to ask, and the request needs to be granted quickly. No citizen should feel as though the police department is passing the buck on a problem.

In the end, there is no substitute for good customer service.

The Mighty pen

Amid talks of newspapers choking in an online world, another medium faces a slow death: The handwritten letter.

I’m talking about pen, paper, envelope and stamp. Person-to-person communication the old-fashioned way, 150 years removed from the Pony Express days.

When was the last time you received a handwritten letter, let alone wrote one yourself?

At this paper, most communication occurs through e-mail, and we prefer it that way. It’s quick and easy.

Some folks use fax machines for important documents, while fewer will send typed news releases or letters via snail mail (even though “snail mail” arrives as soon as 24 hours later if sent locally).

During the age of e-mail, a handwritten letter in our mailbox is a welcome novelty. Nearly all handwritten letters come from older readers who sometimes attach a newspaper clipping for reference.

Likewise, a letter in which my name has been written — not typed — on the envelope will grab my attention first.

Indeed, we are spoiled by computers. Translating a letter’s cursive handwriting to a typed alphabet becomes time-consuming if the penmanship is shaky.

Even so, handwritten communication connects, sending a more thoughtful and concentrated message that we can touch and study simultaneously.

Although e-mail rules in our society’s paperless movement, e-mail is just as easy to delete as it is to produce.

Like the newspaper, handwritten letters will never completely disappear. We still mail birthday cards and leave love notes, all with that priceless human touch we take for granted.

Remember that the pen is still mightier than the sword — and in some ways, mightier than the keyboard, too.

Mirror editor Andy Hobbs: editor@fedwaymirror.com.

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