When I was a kid in the sixties and my big sister went overseas to do nursing work and travel in Britain and Europe, we missed her dreadfully. She sent us aerograms covered by tiny spidery writing detailing what she was doing, experiencing and seeing. (You’d have to be a certain age to remember aerograms). Sometimes she sent postcards. Rarely phone calls were made as they were so incredibly expensive. Sometimes she made a taped recording which she posted to us, and we made one to send back to her.
This has made me think about the pluses and minuses of communication of then, and now.
MAIL: Letters, cards, postcards and aerograms: The sender’s hand held the paper and wrote it. How lovely and tangible that was. They could be passed around, shared and discussed. They could be kept forever. (Think of the letters from World Wars 1 & 2 from soldiers to their wives, sweethearts and families). Birthday and Christmas cards were lovely to put on display. However, mail such as all these took ages from the date of posting to receiving especially if the sender was overseas. Postcards were good as they had a picture on the front but anyone could read them.
PHONE CALLS: It was so exciting to hear the caller’s voice, but only one person could hear at a time and there was tension waiting, wanting to know what was being said. Phone calls especially to or from from overseas were extremely expensive.
TELEGRAMS: These were both a bit scary in case they were bringing bad news but also welcoming if bringing good news. They were great at weddings to read aloud the good wishes from non-present people to the bridal couple. Reading the telegrams was bit of a wedding tradition. However you could only send them from a post office so you had to make a special visit there.
EMAILS: These are fast, easy to send when you know how and highly convenient. If the recipient is online they may reply immediately. You can mark emails as ‘urgent’ and you can also see if the recipient has opened them (if you’re rather techno savvy). You can file and save the ones you want to keep on your laptop. Emails are a bit soulless though. No hand has touched them as in handwritten letters. Emojis can help make them more personal.
PHONE CALLS (and TEXTS, SKYPE / WHATSAPP): These are so easy with a cell phone and lots of people are now doing without a landline. If you’ve got a good plan, phone calls can very cheap. You can also use your phone (or your laptop) to have FaceTime or use other communication apps. How lovely it is to see your children and grandchildren who are overseas. I have even read bedtime stories to my grandchildren when I lived overseas for a time. I also ‘attended’ their birthday parties and ‘showed’ them around my overseas apartment
So, what do I do to communicate now-a-days? Everything – aside from aerograms and telegrams. Communication with loved family members and good friends is and always has been important and precious. What does the future of communication hold? Who knows? But I can bet that people will always want to communicate with those they love.