Progress of Communication, or Has It?

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Once Upon a Time ...

Once upon a time, in a land not so very far away, people used to create something called handwritten letters. I realize that there are some reading this who might be too young to remember such a time, but I assure you it is true. This was done out of necessity.

It was the only form of communication between individuals who lived a long distance apart. And before mail service became something officially controlled, the sender relied upon a friend or acquaintance, which happened to be traveling to the same destination as the letter, to make the delivery. There really was no guarantee of delivery or of the time period it was to be delivered. It happened if, and when, it happened.

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When and If...

Later, as people traveled to a new country, ship captains carried these handwritten letters between the peoples. Again, this delivery happened when it happened, if the ship made it to its destination, and if the captain was reliable. And those sending and receiving the letters had to travel to ports where the ship captains picked up and delivered the letters.

I can’t help but wonder how someone knew they had a letter that had been sent to them that needed to be picked up. It just wasn’t that convenient to ride into town every single day to check the mail. Mail often sat undelivered for extended periods of time.

Through letters, lovers exchanged tear-stained pages, and anxiously awaited the arrival of the next. Events such as weddings and funerals came and went before those receiving the letters had a chance to choose whether or not to attend.

Lost letters had the potential to change people’s lives forever.

A Juxtapositon of Phones - Note: You know you're getting old when... you do a search on 'older phone' and it brings up a rotary dial phone instead of this!
A Juxtapositon of Phones - Note: You know you're getting old when... you do a search on 'older phone' and it brings up a rotary dial phone instead of this! | Source

Verbal Communication Across the Miles

Some time passed, actually quite a bit of time passed, and telephones became commonplace. Those who could afford the luxury, and happened to be in a location where telephone lines had been run, were able to share conversations with others instantaneously. Party lines allowed them to share with lots of people all at once whether they wanted to or not. However, again, I know some of you will find it hard to believe, it could cost extravagant sums to speak to anyone who wasn’t in the same locale.

News that needed to be shared in a timely manner could, however, be shared. Most times at a cost to the caller. More people were able to choose to go to weddings and funerals. Lovers were able to hear the voice of their beloved. Young lovers spent time on the phone, not even having to share words, knowing that their beloved was on the other end of the line giving them their rapt attention. Emotions, such as passion, sadness, and delight, were easily conveyed through those magical telephone wires.

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Email and Cell Phones

Then came the computer, and email. Email allowed correspondence to occur almost instantly between individuals who were fortunate enough to have a computer and internet access. Email would become a common form of written communication. There was even an added bonus. The computer checked your grammar and your spelling, making you look even smarter than you really were. Emotions were not as easily conveyed because everything was moving much quicker and time was not always taken to think out exactly what was being said. But progress was being made.

Then came the cell phone. Now you could talk to anyone anywhere. You weren’t tied to a phone cord, or a computer cord. You could talk to anyone even in a remote wilderness. Feelings and information could be shared instantly anytime and anywhere, as long as a satellite could locate you and your signal.

Text Messaging

This was soon followed by the ability to share text messages over these same cell phones. It was quick. It was easy, and you didn’t have to worry with all the niceties of, “Hi! How are you?” U said what needed 2 B said N as few keystrokes as possible. If time was taken to share any emotions, it was done through emoticons. : D But sometimes that just took too long. : )

One of the reasons texting has become so popular is because it can be done covertly. Kids are able to communicate in classrooms, and the teacher is none the wiser. Employees are able to silently carry on conversations without their boss knowing. Conversations can be held when you are in church, in meetings, at the library or at a movie and you don’t have to worry about disturbing others. You can talk about the person who is sitting beside you and they will never even know it!

But, text messages are easily misunderstood, and are impersonal. Have we really progressed? In my humble opinion, true communication is more than just the sharing of information, and doing it as quickly as possible. True communication requires the sharing of self, and sometimes that requires the niceties. Sometimes it even requires baring your soul ... that's a little more difficult with a text message.

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Lost in the Translation?

I can’t help but wonder if in the future when someone reading a novel comes upon the words, “she stroked the handwritten, tear-stained letter”, if they will even know what that really means. Letters have become a thing of the past. And it’s hard to convey tear stains via text message or email. It gets a little lost in the translation.

But when I am older and grayer than I am now, and I feel like reminiscing (I let my computer spell that one!), I will find great comfort in the letters from loved ones that I have tucked away. I don’t have any phone conversations tucked away anywhere in my head. I don’t have any email much over a year old. And I don’t have any text messages that are over a few days old. But I have love letters that are over 30 years old.

I will be able to read of the love another has for me again and again. I can touch the area smeared and misshaped by tears. I can again re-live times that are shared in the letters that would have otherwise faded in my memory.

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For a moment, I will be a young girl again, reading a letter where my love is expressing his desire to be close to me. I can once again feel that flutter, and experience that love. But if my eyes become dim with the passage of time, I wonder, will there be someone who can still read the cursive that the letters have been written in?


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Copyright © 2011 Cindy Murdoch (homesteadbound)




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Comments: "Progress of Communication, or Has It?" 46 comments

Cloverleaf profile image

Cloverleaf 5 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

Hi Homesteadbound,

Thanks for making me think about a handwritten letter that my Dad wrote to me, the first time I was away from home on a school trip. I think the letter has been lost forever and I would give anything to be able to read it again. Some things really should be kept and treasured forever...

Cloverleaf.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

I hope thinking about it was good...since you can't find it. I hope that maybe it will pop back up when you least expect it, and when you need the bolster the most. Thanks for stopping by.


lundmusik profile image

lundmusik 5 years ago from Tucson AZ

My son-in-law, who is a consultant for AT&T, believes that all humans will have the ability of mind operated computing, including voice conversations and real-time holographic interactions..... so, i'm walking down the streets of new orleans and i say some key words, i then talk to my friend and ask him to join me on the walk,,, he agrees and shows up in holographic form that is as fully aware of my surroundings as i am,, AND he also sees me in real time on the streets of New Orleans (sounds like a futures western tune, doesn't it?)


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

That would be way too cool... sounds like the holo-deck in one of the Star Trek series. When does he expect this to be possible? Technology is jumping with leaps and bounds... Just 100 years ago, we were getting ready to drive, and now we can land a space shuttle that has been in outerspace. Who knows where we will be in just a few years... Interesting to think about.


rosettaartist1 profile image

rosettaartist1 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Haven't cell phones come a long way in a short time though? I remember the first ones which were about the size of a house brick!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

rosettaartist1 - everything is changing so fast! It will be interesting to see what they come up with next, won't it? Thanks for stopping by!


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi homesteadbound, you really made me stop and think, I can't remember the last time I wrote a letter!

Your hub was a journey through time, thoroughly enjoyed it. Many thanks for sharing.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

Movie Master - It has been a while since I've written one myself. Generally to an older relative who is not computer savvy. Technology has made it easier to reach out and touch someoone, it's just different. I don't think it is as meaningful.


jodiejay71 profile image

jodiejay71 5 years ago

Receiving a handwritten letter or note is wonderful..sending a handwritten letter or note gives me a warm feeling. My dear aunt is in a nursing home in Dallas and I send her a note of love every week. I surely hope that if and when I'm in a home that someone will think of me with a handwritten letter of love.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

jodiejay71 - I'll write you a letter, or I'll come see you. Or, .... Maybe I'll make your son do it! HaHa! Thanks for stopping by. Oh, and by the way, I got the hint ... I'll write you a letter when you are in the nursing home, unless you're living with me instead. Then I'll just knock!


weestro profile image

weestro 5 years ago from Virginia

I read about the schools phasing out cursive so I picked up a pen to see if I could still do it... Rusty!!! Great Hub.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

weestro - yes, 80% of schools in the US are said to be phasing out cursive so that keyboard skills can be taught. And my hands are alot shakier also when I try to write, probably because I am not as practiced as I used to be. Thanks for sharing your take on this.


5 years ago

Voted up. Just imagine, at some future time, people saying: 'S/he oughta run for Kongress, s/he can wryte'.

The lost skill of writing. They say that Warren Harding ended up in the Senate because at school he was good at spelling ... .


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

f - That would be strange, wouldn't it? I can write and spell ... should I run for president? LOL


5 years ago

Actually, I think talking would be an even stronger asset than spelling and writing. (Some of them can sure talk. The Presidency as a Bully Pulpit, and all that, as TR Roosevelt used to say.)

So are you a persuasive talker? if you're considering a run.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

f - I'm not a bad speaker either and have been known to give presentations to large crowds, but I have no desire to be a politician.


5 years ago

Well, I don't blame you. If by definition an ambassador is someone sent abroad to lie for his or her country (I forget who coined the phrase), then I wonder, too, what sort of a definition we could come up with about politicians and the way they talk ... .

Blessings.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

f - I would not make a good anything if I had to be deceitful all the time. I just couldn't do it. Thanks for stopping by!


5 years ago

I know the feeling! Phil. 4.8: 'Whatsoever things are true ...' (etc.).

Blessings.


leroy64 profile image

leroy64 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff)

Somehow I don't think hand written letters will ever completely disappear. Sometimes, we need to write something that we don't want someone, like a little sibling reading a diary, to hack into and read. Face it, electronic files do not stay hidden.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

f - exactly!

leroy64 - I was more specifically addressing the fact that cursive is not being taught and upcoming generations may not be able to read cursive. That could be sad.


leroy64 profile image

leroy64 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff)

Sorry, I guess I missed the point. That would be sad. Sometimes things like cursive writing does not go completely away, so there is still hope.

Actually, cursive writing is good practice for those of us that like to sketch. There is a connection to art I do not know how to explain. Out of the English Classroom and into the Art classroom.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

leroy64 - no prob!

The connection could perhaps be that cursive writing is somewhat artistic in nature, so it may use the same part of the brain as sketching.

Great addition to the hub though. Thanks.


5 years ago

Let's face it, too. As well as being able to download shock and awe from a laptop by satellite, it would help a great deal to have enough people who can communicate effectively in languages such as Pashto and Arabic. (On reflection, better communication might even mean less of a need for shock and awe...)

Blessings.


Elsa is Elsa profile image

Elsa is Elsa 5 years ago from Anywhere - Canada most of all

There is a slowness that I feel when reading about re-reading a letter - the good deep slowness of full living. Like you, I have old letters - don't reread them - but they are there. I value the slowness of full living. Thank you for your piece.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

Elsa is Elsa - I like your description of slow living - we don't do that often enough. I have not read those letters in a long time, but should I choose to do that, they are there.

Thanks for stopping by.


Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

I have thought about these things, especially the loss of the handwritten note. I like the way you tied in the very old days when letters often took forever to arrive - what a good point - how did they know they had a letter waiting? Voted up, interesting and awesome.


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

You have give an interesting account of communication history. Writing is also one form of communication. The ancient people wrote on mud and stone tablets, today we are writing on computer.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

Marcy - I realize that more and more people are using keyboards, but I do not feel it is wise to lose the ability to write in cursive, when so many important things have been written in cursive. Thanks for stopping by!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

Vinaya Ghimire - Yes, writing is a form of communication that has been used probably as long as humans have existed. Pictographs are a form of writing. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the subject.


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

Cindy, this is a great hub! It is history! I remember my grandma and aunt were on the same party line. They would get so mad at each other for listening in on the conversations. This also reminded me of all the letters my husband and I have written to each other while he was away and we were too poor to pay for long distant phone calls. Votes and shared!! :-)


LadyLyell profile image

LadyLyell 4 years ago from George, South Africa

As a lover of old fashioned values I still keep up the letter writing and having a few elderly friends overseas it's a must as they were lost in the computer era.

When I travel I always post cards with news of my travels to my grandsons for their "keep-sake."

I recall writing home when I moved overseas to live 38yrs ago that it took three weeks for my letters to arrive. Now, I moan when a reply isn't instant by email!

An enjoyable read that brought back many memories!


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA

I remember the party lines and having penpals, and patiently waiting for letters. We are much more impatient now since we think we should be able to get everything at a click of the mouse, and we do demand instant answers when we send any form of communication. I think we have come a long way, and progress has been good, but I too have saved old letters and enjoy re-reading them from time to time.


susanm23b 4 years ago

Very interesting, well-written hub! I agree with you completely--it seems that today we are leaving very little behind of day-to-day communication. In a distant future, our electronically stored documents may be unreadable by our descendents.

As a homeschool parent, I chose not to jump on the "drop cursive" bandwagon. My children learned cursive. I've been planning a hub in the back of my mind about it--reading your article has motivated me to action.

Excellent job! Voted up :)


Sunnie Day 4 years ago

Nothing more beautiful than a hand written letter expressing ones thoughts and love. Nothing can ever replace the beloved letter...Thank you for a great hub Cindy..

Sunnie


robie2 profile image

robie2 4 years ago from Central New Jersey

There was a time too when monks sat up in the scriptorium of the abbey copying books by hand and illuminating them with beautiful pictures and then poof-- along came the printing press and changed the world-- technology marches on and the changes get made. That said, I too treasure the old photos and hand written letters and even the family bible birth records handed down in my family. I treasure even more some letters I have from dear friends now departed and I have kept a diary for years-- I often go back and read what I wrote years ago, so yes I totally agree with you about the importance of putting personal thoughts on paper. Is that changing? yes I think it is but it will not go away, it will just morph into a new form. Really enjoyed this hub and you made me think about letters and days gone by which was very nice. Up and interesting


winbo profile image

winbo 4 years ago

well written. voted up!! :)


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

sholland10 - I am glad that you enjoyed taking this little jaunt down memory lane. Thanks so much for stopping by!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

LadyLyell - I applaud your writing to people. I know I am thrilled when I receive something in the "snail" mail. It has become a novel thing. Thanks so much for stopping by!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

Millionaire Tips - I just had a thought. Many times we never met our penpals - I know I did not meet mine that lived in Canada. But it was fun. Now we have facebook and chats and messaging with people all over the world. Now I have lots of penpals! Thanks so much for stopping by!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

susanm23b - When you write your hub you will have to let me know so that I can link it to this one. Thanks so much!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

Sunnie Day - I agree with you. I treasure the love letters that I have saved through the years, and I think they are all the more beautiful because the writing (cursive) is unique, unlike the typewritten word which all tends to look the same. When looking at cursive or printing, it is often easy to see who wrote it, unlike the typewritten word. Thanks so much!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

robie2 - I am glad that we do not have to hand letter each and every book that is to be read, but they sure were beautiful, weren't they? Thanks so much for stopping by!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

winbo - I am pleased you enjoyed it!


Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma

It is interesting how communication has changed over the years. I'll be curious to see how it changes in another 20 years.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

It will be interesting to see where we wind up.

Things are moving so very fast.

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