Letters, phone calls
When was the last time you wrote a letter? Not a piece of formal communication, an annual round robin or a birthday card, but an honest to goodness, common-or-garden ‘how are you doing’ letter? For me it’s been at least 10 years. In fact, I can directly trace the demise of my letters correspondence to the birth of what I laughingly call my ‘career’, and my introduction to ubiquitous email.
During my student days, which commenced after the birth of PC Advisor, the only way to keep up with former schoolmates was the occasionally scrawled note. Infrequent, but personal and direct to the correspondent, friendships might lose their immediacy, but longer-lasting intimacy was faithfully preserved. At the same time I was honour-bound to phone my parents at least once a week, which required a freezing trip to the phonebox (it was always cold), and a brief chat down the line, usually curtailed by the pips before my shoulder gave into the effects of trying to hold up a phone the weight of a dumbbell. I am a man, reader, and a man of Yorkshire at that. Talking on the phone does not come naturally to me.
Interestingly, my sister attended the same university five years after me, by which time three significant things had changed. Most importantly, the scuzzy old university bar had become a ‘fun pub’. More pertinently to this feature, SMS via mobile phones and email had both become popular. This meant that, even before social media, IM and mobile email came on the scene, my younger sibling had a different social experience of higher education.
While I only vaguely kept in touch with friends from my younger days, Egan minor was able to communicate daily, if not hourly, with her childhood pals. As a consequence, the not-massive distance between our childhood home in Leeds and alma mater in Hull felt a lot bigger to me than it did her.
Fast-forward a few PC Advisor issues to today, and the world is a very different place. It’s possible to keep up a constant conversation with friends and family regardless of geographical distance, using email, texts and instant messages. This gives the impression of a greater level of intimacy, but does it work like that? It’s a lot easier to keep up the semblance of a correspondence when it’s a simple question of typing and hitting send. It’s also less private: whether or not you make it clear to your recipients, it’s simple to send digital mail from one to many.
It’s also the case that before everyone habitually texted each other you had to make a firm time and place to meet up, rather than heading to the same area and relying on technology to hook you up. Thus even faceto-face meetings become more casual affairs.
On the other hand, I know I’m able to maintain relationships with people I care about that I wouldn’t be able to in a world without email, SMS and IM. And I’m more likely to send someone a text asking if they want to meet up than I ever would phone them.
The shift from more formal, paper and phone-based communications to digital messaging has changed the way we live.