Ah, technology. When it’s running smoothly, life is good. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Skype, iTunes, You Tube, email, IM’s, blogs, games, news, videos…..whew, I need to take a break! Which is what I did, not voluntarily, mind you. My borrowed laptop crashed, and let’s just say the last week has been difficult.
Okay, that’s an understatement. I mean really, I had to write out my thoughts and ideas on actual paper. Paper?!? Do you know how hard it was to find paper around here? Or a pen, for that matter? I’m not really sure I can decipher the chicken scratch that has become my handwriting.
What did we do without computers and the internet and the instant gratification of talking with near strangers in real-time? It’s amazing, really, to think that we, as a civilization, have lasted as long as we have without such technology. Pony express? Please! Could you even begin to wait months for news from around the world?
What about letters, news from family and friends? Does anyone even have pen pals anymore? I mean real, honest to goodness, write the letter, lick the envelope, and wait for a reply, pen pals? I used to when I was a kid. I remember writing long letters of not much consequence to a school friend that had moved away. Several of us went the international route, writing letters to kids in other countries. We would learn about life outside the confines of our small town, only to find out our pen pal’s life wasn’t much different from our own.
My son’s class had a project last year to write letters to service men and women overseas. The kids were in high hopes of receiving answers to their letters. It was very exciting for them, imagining a soldier on the other side of the world, reading their attempts at written conversation. Even I was excited, as I secretly longed for my own pen pal. Unfortunately, none of the kids received a response.
Is writing a letter so passé that it’s no longer a viable form of communication? I have my sons write letters to Grandpa in Chicago. He’s “old school”, as they say – 70 years old and not one for modern technology. While he enjoys receiving these prize bits of literary genius, he’s not one to reciprocate. All of his cards read plainly, “Love, Papa”. Still, he sends cards for all the occasions, and the boys are usually in quite a tizzy over snail mail deliveries, however sparse.
As a kid, my mom used to make me and my brothers write something in all the cards exchanged for birthdays and holidays. “Love, Me” wasn’t going to cut it, especially to the grandparents we didn’t see very often. No logging onto Facebook to watch us growing up. We had to write about the things we were doing in school, on summer vacation and with our friends. We also included photos of ourselves, usually picked up from the local Walgreen’s. The kind of photos you had to wait to have developed, no digital images back then.
As many of you know, I am currently living in the PICU of our local children’s hospital with my youngest son. We are away from friends and family. I was quite upset to have my only form of communication taken from me. What was I going to do without it? How was I going to keep in touch with my boys or provide updates on how Capt Snuggles was doing? Well, I went a whole week without leaving (or receiving) snarky comments on Facebook. I couldn’t Tweet about my latest run-in with the cafeteria staff. No instant chats or lengthy emails to respond to. I had no blog postings. But, I do have a whole notebook of thoughts and ideas for future blogs.
I wandered down to the gift shop and found notecards to share some of my thoughts with the boys at home. They now have something tangible, a reminder of this time apart. I had to re-learn the fine art of penmanship. Where’s the spell check and backspace key when you need it?
I survived my week without technology. It was only lonely on my end. The boys didn’t notice much of a difference – they still had access to their computers. They keep in touch with cousins, aunts and uncles, even Grandma can be found on FB! A few extra phone calls and snail mail from me was a novel way to spend the week. They eventually wanted to know when I’d be back online, though. Would we really want to go back to a life without technology?
While I’d like to think the fine art of letters will come back into style, we’re much too impatient. As a society, we all want instant gratification. The boys like snail mail, but they still want to chat with me on Facebook or play games together online – a note in a brightly colored card doesn’t take the place of real-time communications.
How does your family keep in touch with one another? Could you survive without the internet? When was the last time you received a hand written letter?
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Amy Hillis from Ohio, USA. When not teaching her sons the fine art of penmanship, Amy can be found wandering the internet at her website, Transplanted Thoughts, and on Twitter @transplantedx3 .
Photo credit to http://www.flickr.com/photos/rachdavies/4757482724/. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.