The year is 2015, the way in which we communicate with each other has drastically changed over the years. What happened to our society that we no longer show any appreciation toward one another? Do people even take family vacations anymore? And if they do, how much time do they really spend together rather than on their devices? Who among us can say that they spend any significant portion of their day simply talking with another human being face-to-face without the distraction of a phone or a tablet or the television? If you don’t already know believe me when I say, it is rare.
If you are of that rarefied group then more power to you but I might also challenge you by asking if you are truly being honest with yourself about how much time you spend connecting with your family while being disconnected. By that I mean simply this, you see your child/significant other/parent/whomever every day and sure you may volley witty banter back and forth with each other, but how dedicated are you to that particular conversation? Is the television completely off? Is your phone shut off? Is their’s? Are your computers or tablets turned off while you carry on your discussion? Are you completely focused on your fellow conversationalist? And if you really stop and think about it your answer to any of the previous questions is more likely to be no than yes. In fact your topic of conversation with your family at night may even begin with phrases like “I saw this thing on twitter today…” or “Look at what I just found on Pinterest…” or “Did you read Johnny’s post on Facebook…?”
Please do not misinterpret my inquiry as judgment. I myself own an iPhone, iPad, iPod and a laptop all of which come equipped with apps making sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat instantly accessible. Our society is obsessed with such sites and I know I am not the first person to question the lack of personal communication among today’s human beings, in any form.
People are hopelessly addicted to such technology, including yours truly and I don’t think it’s all that bad, social media can be an excellent outlet for anyone who wants their voice heard in this technological based society. I mean…come on; the irony is not lost on me that I’m discussing this on my own online blog.
I did in fact recently return from a ten-day family vacation to Florida and the Western Caribbean. While on our vacation it became apparent that I am a horrible conversationalist. When it comes to the written word I can pretend that I am intelligent and eloquent and even inside my head, believe me there are lovely thoughts. But when I was forced to communicate via my personal vocal chords it was obvious there was a disconnect of sorts and I realized it was more than likely because I rarely have a captive audience when it comes to expressing my thoughts and I became an awkward, blundering fool.
Normally, I communicate with my extended family through text or email and it’s only on very rare occasions that I speak to them on the telephone, and by rare I mean…never. Sure we’re friends on Facebook but conversations while we’re in the same room are limited to twice or thrice a year.
After departing Florida and leaving our cellular reception behind as well I eventually, after a day or two, had warmed up and stretched my lingual dexterity and I felt liberated from the confinements of my 4-inch pocket sized screen. I was pleased to discover that the age of personal communication was not dead like I had thought, but only obsolete.
Everyone talks about how face-to-face experiences have diminished by the presence of technology. But has anyone discussed how it has also affected our desire to write letters to one another. Do kids today even know what personalized stationary looks like? I remember the days when you’d go on vacation and the hotel would provide you with stationary to write to anyone of your choosing. Today they provide you with a flimsy little notepad and free Wi-Fi, if that. Now we’ve reduced our correspondence to such lackadaisical responses as “K” “OMG” or “BTW” via text message. We can’t even be bothered to text complete thoughts or sentences like the civilized, elementary-educated adults that most of us are.
We somehow think we no longer have the time to sit with a piece of paper and a pen and drop a line to our grandmother or grandfather because, let’s face it our grandparents and parents are probably the only generation who still walk to the mailbox every afternoon and diligently sort through each and every piece of mail.
Very few people write personalized correspondence anymore just for the hell of it. Usually the only things in my mailbox are bills, solicitations or invitations to events I regrettably won’t have the time to attend. The days of sending actual thank you cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards or love letters are more than likely over. People just don’t communicate the way they use to and sadly they probably never will again.
But, if you’re anything like me you have a huge stack of mail just sitting somewhere taking up space in your home, collecting dust until eventually you have company coming so you’re forced to sift through it. And in the process you realize someone you don’t recognize has gotten married, your second cousin twice removed graduated high school, you forgot to pay your electric bill and your old college roommate had a baby and you missed all these announcements because you couldn’t find the time to sort through your damn mail.
I hate to admit that even I get annoyed when I hear the phrase “it’s in the mail” and think silently to myself “couldn’t you just email it?” But, why do I feel that way? What the hell is so important in my life that I can’t take the time to wait for something to arrive through the postal service? I ask myself what I stand to lose by taking the time to write or even read a letter when I should be asking myself, what I might gain from it. I’ll also admit that I’m a walking contradiction because when I do get something personal in the mail it makes me happy.
I’m not saying that all the world’s problems would be solved if we sat down in a room together talking and writing letters to each other but I also know that there’s a level of anticipation in receiving a handwritten letter or card. I don’t know about you but, I feel loved when I receive personalized mail. It tells me that I was important enough to someone that they took time from their busy day to sit down and scribble a little anecdote or a “howdy do?” That someone wrote to me because they were genuinely thinking of me and not because they wanted something from me.
Not only that but it says a lot about the kind of person they are. It says that they still believe in tradition and sincerity, that to them personal communication isn’t dead but still vital and necessary. It says they comprehend that whomever they’re writing to is more important than the ten minutes they lost so they could stop and put pen to paper in order to make someone’s day a little brighter with such a small and simple act of kindness.
With that being said, I’m going to endeavor to be that type of person, someone who brings a tiny ray of light to someone else’s day by sending a little note or card to show them that they are appreciated and that there is someone somewhere thinking about them. I’m going to make more of an effort to live outside my digital world and look into someone’s eyes when I speak with them. And I hope that you do too.