It's official. I'm old.
The other day I needed to get in touch with some of the youth in our church ('youth' meaning the late teens, early twenties people), and said 'I'll shoot you an email'.
The response was less than enthusiastic. I got furtive looks from the guys, and wrinkled noses from the girls. 'Can't you just send me a text? I don't respond to emails anymore.'
It was then I realized we are all in a shiny new communications era. Emails were no longer responded to. Emails were too slow and boring.
Let's go back in history, shall we? Back in the olden days (yes, even before I was born and electricity was discovered), people actually spoke to each other to communicate. You wanted to talk to your auntie Grunt, you hauled your hind end over to her cave and met her face to face- even if it was hundreds of miles away. Let's just say those important talks (like her special recipe for stewed mammoth), were usually reserved for the annual get-togethers in winter.
Then someone invented paper and we began writing to each other. This was much better, because you didn't have to meet face to face all the time, and it was faster- all you had to do was find someone going the same direction as the recipient's residence to pass along the message. Easy peasy. Letters were like a mini book delving into the lives of family and friends. When a letter was received, you got excited like it was Christmas- the family would gather around as you read it by the fire, kiddies listening to the new stories of real life happenings with great interest.
Once the postal system came along, it was the end-all be-all of communication for a really long time. People could actually hear from each other in weeks (and eventually days as the system went from horses and cars to trains and planes), and a letter was still a very cherished thing- thought not as cherished as before.
Then came the telephone.
People could talk instantly- and the letter became the communications dinosaur and a lost art. No longer would we have to wait to speak to someone, we would just have to walk to the nearest town and let the operator know who we wanted to talk to- until we had a phone in our own home, saving ourselves a hike. Eventually we didn't even need an operator, and could call a friend if we had their secret code- via a phone number.
Though the phone is still the main way we communicate, the computer era has taken it to a new level. If someone was unavailable and their answering machine was full, you could always email- you knew when it was sent (just in case the person was lying that they never got it), and if it was someone whose calls you were ignoring, you could respond after you edited what you really wanted to say. You could even lie your face off in an email, and no none would be the wiser because they couldn't read your face!
But it also put what you said in retrievable writing, so you still had to be careful.
Then came the text. No longer do we need to read slow, boring emails when you can have a conversation by typing everything and sending it instantly. I can see if the other person was unable to talk, but why text back and forth when talking is so much more efficient? You know the other person is there because they are texting back, so why not just talk and save yourself from carpal tunnel?
The era of personal communications is lost. I see it every day. friends walking together down the street, both of them texting other friends or even each other. Moms texting their kids instead of calling, because calls get ignored. Texting is more private than conversation, so instead of overhearing interesting things on the bus, all we hear are little beeps and boops. Even I have gotten caught up in texting on occasion, though I try to resist it!
I'm sure the next new thing will be the video phone, like in the Jetsons- and our answering machines will have a cardboard cutout of ourselves with a pre-recorded message...'Hi! This is Beth. sorry I'm not at my desk right now, but if you leave your name and number and a brief video, I will tweet you as soon as possible.' Beep.
After that? Maybe we'll be able to communicate telepathically, though I certainly hope not! I can imagine the tweets (which would then be only three words long) spewing forth faster the light itself between friends and family and even dear Auntie Gruntella, who would be most insulted if she learned her revised elephant stew was the worst thing you ever put in your mouth.
In some cases, it's really good not to be able to communicate face to face!
And if our young adults are any indication of how the trends will go, email will go the way of the dinosaurs- and really old, out of date people like me. Lost in cyberspace, like socks in a dryer.