Remember when we used to write letters?

19Jun12

I’m old enough (37) to have known what it was like to use snail mail (handwritten pages, envelopes and stamps) as the default mode of personal long-distance communication. It seems archaic now, but I used to love writing/reading sending/receiving letters. There was joy in it for me, to get sheets of paper, find a pen, sit down and start writing a letter. Writing a six-page letter (A4 paper), front and back, was my usual “Hey, just wanted to say hi” length of letter, and people loved it. They said it was fun reading my long letters. Other times when I had more to say, things on my mind that need expressing, a letter from me could easily become twice to three times that long. I enjoyed writing. And then folding the papers and putting them in an envelope. Writing my friend’s/brother’s/sister’s/mother’s name and address on the envelope. Taking the envelope to the post office and paying for a stamp(s) to be affixed to the upper right-hand corner of the envelope. Watching the stamp(s) get rubberstamped, and seeing my letter being tossed in the outbound bin.

I loved it. Every step of it. Now with emails, I can barely find the time or inclination to reply emails, let alone initiate one. Putting together a 2-line email to friends or family feels like a chore now, yet here I am writing this multi-paragraph post to complete strangers on the internet. I’m all keyboard now, and only ever use a pen to sign stuff or scribble notes or a quick flowchart. I don’t know why this is so. Do you?

And speaking of emails, I’m told that’s becoming dated too, in terms of preferred mode of communication. I’m told, most of the “youth” today are not even old enough to have used email in their everyday communication. Can it be true? Is it all SMS, IM, tweet and chat now? Is that the way of it? Well, consider someone who was born on 9/11 would be 11 years old this year. Are my grandkids (assuming I manage to pull of finding someone to make *kids* with, first) going to ask me “Grandpa, did you used to write emails? What was it like, having to do all that typing?”

The other day, a colleague asked me if I was watching the second season of A Game of Thrones. I told her I had read books 1-5, and found the second season of the TV series had heavily deviated from the original story, so much so that I refused to watch that nonsense, and instead decided to just wait for books 6 and 7. She said she didn’t read. I love libraries. Deeply. I’ve always loved reading. As a kid I would easily read a 700-page novel in 3 days. Take down 2-3 of those in a week, depending on how riveted I was by the stories. But books seem to be disappearing and everything is going tablet/phone/e-reader. I love the new book smell. The old book smell. The textures of different types of pages. I might have become less verbose with my emails, but at least I still find it in me to ramble endlessly on the internets.

And I still read, though not anywhere near as much and as fast as I used to. Less time. Shorter attention span. So many bits and snippets to read on the web today. Skip lines, breeze through, get the gist of it, then move on. (TL;DR!) RSS feed backed up to three weeks ago.All those open browser tabs. The unread emails. Mark Folder Read. And none of it smells like adventure, or intergalactic battle, or dark mystery. It’s all 1s and 0s now. Digital information deluge at the speed of thought. Variable font styles encased in banner ads, drowning in pagination horror.

What am I going to tell my grandkids. Will they even be able to relate?

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3 Responses to “Remember when we used to write letters?”

  1. well im not as old as you, im 30 now, but for what i can tell, is dat these new generations are getting 2 premature.they’re growing up really really fast.they dont get old as we did. making things at it’s right time. little along use same comunication methods we used. of course tech evolved really fast, but whats the porpouse of a 12yo having a cell phone? or having FB or other social networks? or even have internet access outside school and a bit of recreation time?
    world is changing fast. and parents from our generation, have yet to teach kids how to grow up propperly. have you noticed that kids dont play with eachother on the streets any more?
    kudos

    • 2 jargon

      Yes, I still can’t get used to seeing little kids with cell phones. Aside from calling home when they get lost or go missing, I don’t see what good a cell phone would do children. Not to mention their overexposure to the internet, especially social networks, you’re absolutely right.
      And that’s a good point about kids no longer playing outside. Even here in Nigeria, and Africa in general, only “the poor kids” play outside, which is very sad. I think it is unfortunate that technological advancement has led to children no longer feeling the urge to play outside. When we were kids, my mom had trouble keeping us in the house. Today’s kids, their mothers probably have trouble getting them to remove themselves from their computers/cell phones 5 whole minutes. Things really have changed.

  2. Kids are going to adapt, no matter what the medium.

    Getting them to understand that writing (hand-writen, text, or audio/video-file) is something to be explored and be enriched by, that might take a few decades.

    I’m 43, and my Dad is still, for the most part, waiting….


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