Someone told me lately that she has no telephone land line and uses only her cell phone. She added that her main source of communication was either by cell phone or by e-mail and if old friends didn't use e-mail, she rarely thought to communicate with them.
I was a "mail junkie" from an early age, as early as grammar school. I wrote volumes to friends when I went on vacation. I had a succession of pen pals in England that I got from a woman with the improbable name of Mrs. Chegwidden. People used to cringe because if they sent me a letter, they would get a lengthy reply back by return mail. I wrote at least one letter a day to a friend for 3 or 4 years, sometimes more than one letter a day.
I always assured people know that I really didn't expect the same speedy or voluminous response from them, but was that I was just happy to hear from them whenever they had the time to write.
I now keep copies of all the letters I write (because I use the computer, of course). I just checked, and in the entire year of 2007, I sent a total EIGHT letters, only three of which were actually personal notes. Two were thank yous for gifts I had received, and one in October was in response to a form letter I'd been sent from someone I hadn't heard from in many years (she did not respond). The other five were letters to businesses complimenting service or complaining about service, and one letter to the editor.
Yesterday I came across an interesting blog entry by a guy who had examined the whole issue of communication in depth and actually had charted the progression of methods of communication.
(He left out Utterz, which I've started to use at least once a day.)
I realized how my method of communication has changed. The bulk of my communication with people now is by blogging and e-mail. (I am always surprised at how many people that I know in real life read this journal, so it becomes almost another way of writing a daily letter to all my friends and acquaintances, I guess. In fact, my mother told me once that people never call me because they already know what I'm doing because of reading Funny the World, so my journal was actively distancing me from people that I care about.)
I use Twitter (and Utterz) a decent amount of time, but 99% of the people with whom I may be exchanging information are strangers, or at best, people I've known on line for varying lengths of time, but have never met in person (with very few exceptions).
Jeri and I text message quite a bit. I occasionally receive a text message from Ned or from a friend, but that is rare. Mostly if a text message comes onto my cell phone, it's from Jeri. Jeri and I used to exchange e-mail more, but when texting came in (and especially after she explained that whole T-9 thing), we could communicate more often, using fewer words.
While most of the new electronic methods of communication have the advantage of satisfying my constant need for instant gratification, there is a real down side to all these new ways of communicating and our dependence on them.
I've lost friends. A couple of good friends don't really use their computers for communication at all and I just never think to sit down and write a real letter-on-paper (I'd have to buy stamps, for one thing--and have you priced stamps lately?). So I just never hear from them and I miss that one-on-one that we used to have. (It can be said that I could make the effort, but the rift has grown so wide that even if I do try, I don't get a response).
Sometimes even people who are comfortable in the use electronic communication just kind of fade away. They don't answer e-mail and don't call back when you leave voice messages. They get busy about other things and newer friends, and staying in touch with the old ones gets lost in the shuffle. I am guilty of that myself.
(Not only is making friends on line easier and faster than the old fashioned way, dropping them is also easier and faster, unfortunately.)
There has been such an explosion in technology when it comes to communication that it seems to underscore our need to be in constant touch with people, but it also seems to point out that it may be more difficult to sustain deep friendships as people branch off in excitement over the next thing to come down the pike, and forget the old friends who aren't up to speed with it all yet.
Charlotte and I went drove up to Colfax yesterday to have lunch with Richard, Michele's husband. It was a lovely afternoon and we spoke at length of Michele and how much she was loved by so many. Michele was, I fear, one of those people I let slip through the cracks. She sent e-mail, but not very often and we had only recently revived regular communication among all of us in that group. I didn't keep up my own end of the friendship by continuing to contact her, even without a response. I didn't follow through on the chance to go into the mountains to see her.
As we walked through the property that they own there, watching the trees change color, watching Kofi, the dog (yes, his last name is Annan -- these are the people who once had a dog named Milhous, after all) chasing balls, the cat batting at leaves, and Richard raking the worms he keeps in containers behind the house, I saw the peaceful, quiet almost technology-free life that Michele led and I realized that in putting off a visit and not keeping up correspondence, I had missed an important part of my friend's life.
I hope that in the future, as I get busy about many things, and enjoy all the new technology, I don't let other friends slip through the cracks. We always think that there is time for all that stuff later. "Later" didn't happen for Michele and me, and I am the poorer for it.