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Progress of Communication, or Has It?

Updated on April 9, 2013

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.


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.


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.


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.


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?

All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2011 Cindy Murdoch (homesteadbound)

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