In those days, long distance calls were an extravagance and postal rates were low. When we wanted to get in touch, we used the US mail.
Quaint, isn't it? Now we can call anywhere in the country for one flat monthly rate. We send email, not postal mail. We have blogs and Facebook and Twitter and smartphones on which we can monitor all of these things. Our phones are always with us. We are reachable anywhere in the world.
So--what does this truly mean? We text messages to each other rather than make a phone call. We put up a status update to be read by all of our friends rather than write a series of letters to people we care about. We tweet with 140 characters (I just used 28 in the beginning of this sentence, if you count spaces--since I avoid Twitter, I don't know if I should or not) about anything that might have flitted across our minds at any given second.
And the business world has discovered this great new accessibility to the point that many of us don't answer our phones. We screen calls or ignore them until much later, because frequently the caller is a robot, posing as a telemarketer. We read messages in our free moments, plan to respond later, and then often forget about them. There's really no impetus to respond to many of them because they're written to a world at large. What's written to everyone in fact is written for nobody.
I am fond of people whom I never call. They're busy and I'm reluctant to break into their world. It used to be if someone picked up the phone, it meant they were in their living room. Now they could be at a party, in a meeting, having dinner at a restaurant, in line to go to the movies...This is why we text, but I have a landline. I don't have that capability.
And even if I did, odds are there would be no response until much later.
I used to think of this blog as being a letter to friends and family, especially when I lived overseas. Now I don't expect responses here. It's become a notebook to myself. I do post notifications of new entries on Facebook, where (if I'm lucky) people will press a Like button in response.
Our conversations in real life have become different. "Oh yes. I read about that on Facebook, " we say in reply to a friend's news. Or even worse, "I keep up with you on Facebook." No need to meet for coffee when Facebook provides such an efficient alternative.
Last year I sent Christmas cards, each with a little note. They sank into the same vacuum as a Facebook message or a Tweet, with considerably more thought and financial outlay than is required by social media. It made me sad, enough so that I won't do it again. And it makes me sad that with so many ways to communicate, we do less of it than we did when there was only one.