Image by Raymond Yee via Flickr
I found an interesting article in our most recent copy of "Christian Century" by theologian Barbara Brown Taylor. She was questioning our lives "Before Computers" - not denigrating the tools - but reasonably questioning what we did prior to email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. She states her concern to be "with those who have lost their freedom to decide when to use the media and when to turn it off." Continuing on to say "Does anyone remember what people did with the hours we are now spending in front of screens?"
The author then lists many wonderful things that she remembers doing in that time. I admit that I related to many of her same memories, yet, I'm personally acquainted with friends who were and still are perfectly happy to spend their time in front of something other than a computer - and that's a television set. I suspect many of those same folks would never relate to the pleasure of having written long, newsy letters to their friends and family, nor thought of enjoying quiet time on a plane, nor even having lunch with friends to catch up on the news. Their interest just didn't, nor does it relate to communication with other human beings. I don't mean to say that everyone I know is a dreary, boring individual. On the contrary, I find my life full of fabulous friends, family, and acquaintances met through business and travel experiences - so many people that it would be nigh impossible to either eat or sleep if I tried to correspond with them via the USPS and long, newsy letters.
Continuing in the author's vein of letter writing, I'm afraid I never did develop the habit of ordering beautifully monogrammed stationery nor fountain pens to communicate with friends and family. I used the telephone if the family was particularly close and I dutifully penned notes of condolence and regret or RSVP replies, but seldom newsy, lengthy letters. Of course, my parents and in-laws, under a totally unknown situation to me of long time separation due to World War events, had occasion to communicate through letter writing. They had no other means of communication. Their thoughts, concerns, love, anxiety and daily news out of pure necessity needed to be sent via the postal service to far off destinations. So, yes, I can understand how my parents would not understand today's method of communication nor are many of them or their contemporaries still living interested in attempting it on a regular basis. Just too much trouble and too impersonal.
My counter to that argument, and something I consider a plus, is that through the aforementioned mediums of email and Facebook contact, I've recently found friends from 50 years ago, my high school graduating class. I found them prior to attending an amazing class reunion a couple of weeks ago and, due to Facebook communication, we kind of had a headstart on our face-to-face reunion. I've made connection with cousins and their children, with new blogging friends - whom I've never met in person, yet feel connected to via our personal post exchanges. I'm in contact, or shall we say, in communication with a niece in Kyrgystan, a nephew in NYC, and two in MN, I know about birthday parties and celebrations of nieces and nephews that I haven't seen in years but feel I know their families through snapshots of what's happening in their lives. I've seen the beautiful figure of a niece expecting her first baby, the glowing pride of their mothers and fathers about the events in their children's lives that they would never think to write me about in a letter. Why would they think I cared to know that? Mundane details of daily life? How much more connected am I with my loved ones and even with those I don't love soooo much, but still am somewhat curious about where life has taken them.......!
You might ask what difference does all of that make - short sentences over full-blown correspondence? A big difference - there's an instant connection - there's an "I'm here, I'm listening to you, I'm offering up my prayers for your ailing parents, for your children recovering from surgery, for your recent divorce, for your broken heart, for your new job, for your vacation, for the birth of your first grandchild, for the wedding of your second daughter, for the launch of your last child to college, your first grandchild's steps or first ballgame or first swimming award! I care and can pray for these persons rather than wondering some time later, where was I? Where was I when these folks needed my love, my prayers, my support in their sorrow, in their losses, in their thrill of new birth, in their celebration of each day?
Still with all of the communication tools I have, I may still miss LOTS of important events in the lives of those I love but I do have a fighting chance to know the news before it's old and cold news. I can get carried away in writing a blog, in surfing on Facebook, in rejoicing in the silly and arcane but it's a way of life that I wouldn't trade for the non-communication, the non-knowing, the non-connection of friends and family.
But one last thought, probably to be expanded into another post - maybe our thoughts in prayer and conversation with God have always been somewhat internet/electronic in nature? I mean we send them out there in space and hope for a returning answer, that is, an answer that we'll like...........