How To Write A Love Letter In The Digital Age

As if you needed further proof Britney Spears is one of the greatest secret geniuses of our time, it's been 16 years since the pop star first espoused the virtues of email love letters — and scientists are just now catching on to the brilliance of digital affection. New research out of Indiana University has revealed that Millennials prefer sending emails to express romantic feelings over, say, leaving a voicemail. And you know what? Maybe that's not such a bad thing. In fact, there are plenty of times when an email definitely is more appropriate or effective than a voicemail.

This revelation is according to 72 college-aged people polled by Alan R. Dennis, chair of Internet systems at IU's Kelley School of Business, alongside Taylor M. Wells, assistant professor of management information systems at California State University, Sacramento. Who would have thought it? Not only is it convenient to email your emotions, but it can also be more poignant.

"The bottom line is that email is much better when you want to convey some information that you want someone to think about," said Dennis of the IU study. Or, to quote Brit's circa 1999 song "Email My Heart":

Email my heart and say our love will never die

And I know you're out there and I know that you still care

Email me back and say our love will stay alive

Forever, email my heart.

Seriously, y'all. That's the stuff transcendence is made of.

Now, go ahead and finish listening to the song — I know you Googled it. It's cool. While we bob our heads through the last few catchy verses, perhaps all of the technology loving Millennials out there will finally get some credit from everyone who's been chiding us for years over defaulting to "less personal" means of communication such as email. In fact, the study found people who sent romantic emails used stronger, more thoughtful language than their counterparts leaving sentimental messages via voicemail.

Explained Dennis, "When writing romantic emails, senders consciously or subconsciously added more positive content to their messages, perhaps to compensate for the medium's inability to convey vocal tone." So, while critics of digital media communication among Millennials have long been lampooning it as less natural and effective than face-to-face communication or communication over the phone, the truth appears to be that Millennials are simply highly evolved beings. (To our credit, we've been trying to point everyone to this conclusion for, well, always.)

OK, so I'm paraphrasing, but Dennis really does say that the study proves people have adapted. For Millennials, who've grown up texting and emailing, digital communication is a totally organic form of expression. The benefits are innumerable: No dead air, wiggle room for interpretation, time to mull over our words more, yet also a fast and efficient method ... the list goes on and on. To wit, there are very certainly times when email love letters make more sense than a phone call.

1. The Lyrical Love Letter

Sometimes, a girl just has to go with the music of the heart. Or someone else's like, oh, you know, Ed Sheeran. Shooting your significant other an email filled with stirring lyrics is particularly perfect for people who have trouble articulating their feelings, as well as those of us who love music so much we could teach it as a first language. But really, you guys. Can you imagine calling your lover on the phone and reciting Nickelback (hey now, don't hate!) lyrics? Awk-ward.

2. The I-Had-Too-Much-Wine-And-Angrily-Drunk-Dialed-Your-Ex-At-Three-In-The-Morning-Not-That-That's-Ever-Happened-To-Me Love Letter

You know, hypothetically this is totally a thing that could happen to a gal who opted to forego dinner in favor of wine o'clock. Regardless, dealing with the aftermath of said hypothetical situation is no phone over the phone or — double yikes — via voicemail. To be honest, you're not even quite sure what you did or said; you're just certain you need to tell your loved one how sorry you are for the late night shenanigans which may or may not find their way to YouTube.

3. The Legitimately Apologetic Love Letter

Unlike mildly funny to moderately hilarious wine-induced transgressions, there are moments which merit far more gravitas. And while a phone call might be able to convey the true depths of your regret over what you've done, an apologetic email love letter takes advantage of the fact that you'll be unresponsive when your significant other is reading it. This is a big plus, because it keeps you from sticking your ibig foot in your mouth by getting defensive.

4. The Things Left Unsaid Love Letter

There's a reason they call them "things left unsaid," after all. This type of email love letter is filled with everything you've been holding back, whether it be from insecurity or your hyperbolic fear of public speaking. Email allows you to truly choose the measure of your words and pour your heart out in a way that you just wouldn't have the nerve to otherwise. Unless, of course, you're still buzzing with liquid courage from item number two on this list.

5. The Sexy Love Letter

The difference between expressing your sexy feelings through email or over the phone is, well, about 3 bucks a minute on a 1-900 line. Kidding! Only, not really. Because if we're being real — we're friends, right? — sometimes the things you want to say to your significant would essentially amount to phone sex if you dialed them up. Not that there's anything wrong with that! But where sexy emails are brilliant is that they're all about the buildup.

6. The Just Because Love Letter

Listen, you adore your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/what-have-you. There are seriously moments when you consider gobbling their face off it's so darn cute. Only you don't, 'cause cannibalism. Rather, you capitalize on those moments by hitting send on short and endearing "just because I love you" letters. But while these come across as cute via email, they'd might just come across as creeper after the fifth, erm, third voice mail.

There you have it, my friends. When in doubt, email it out.

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