Keeping it Postal

With today’s advances in technology, it seems as though everyone owns their own computer or smartphone. With increasing rapidity, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a handful of other social networking sites and applications have quickly become the main source of communication between human beings.

But what ever happened to good old-fashioned communication? The times in which it was more appropriate to send a letter as opposed to a text message appear to have completely been replaced. In current times, it seems that messaging a person on Facebook is far more superior to having an actual telephone conversation with them. Handwritten letters and phone calls are somewhat of a rarity in today’s world.

Our society yearns for instant gratification, which is why all of the various forms of instant messaging that exist are so popular, especially among the younger generation. Text messaging, online message boards, and video chatting have quickly become this era’s main ways of communicating with one another. But as someone who still does use some older forms of communication, I have found that although the current technologies made available to us are extremely useful and fun, the older ways in which people used to keep in touch are most definitely underrated.

My best friends and I got closer than ever this past summer, just months before we all went our separate ways and started our first year of college. There are eight of us, and we all attend schools in different states along the East coast. From Boston, Massachusetts all the way down to Tampa, Florida, the distance between all of us is quite far. But regardless of how far away from one another we knew we were going to be, we were determined to keep our friendship alive.

Before we had even left for school, we all wrote each other letters and gave them to one another during the final weeks of summer. We also agreed that we would always try to write to one another, even if it was just to say hello. Writing letters may be more tedious and time consuming than writing on someone’s Facebook wall, but receiving a handwritten message in the mail is a whole lot more exciting than receiving a notification.

The many different types of technology that provide us with instant messaging are great because the satisfaction of receiving and processing information is instantaneous. However, letters and postcards are things that a person can cherish for years to come. Jaclyn Boffice, a communication professor at the University, said, “I believe that mailing letters and hand-writing notes like holiday cards, thank you cards and business letters is essential. Their formality makes them distinct and more appreciated by the receiver.”

Telephone calls are also considered to be an ancient way of communicating, but my friends and I partake in conversations this way quite frequently. Talking on the phone is a far more personal experience than texting or talking online. You are able to pick up on a person’s emotions and feelings more so on the phone than you ever would be able to through a text or an email. Boffice said that she speaks on the telephone weekly to catch up with friends and family. “A lot can be lost in translation when communication is done digitally. Sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone and hear the tone and inflection in someone’s voice,” she explained.

Even though my friends and I do write letters and talk on the phone, we also incorporate the more popular and recent forms of technology into our long distance friendship. We are all a part of a group text message, which allows us to quickly share stories or ask questions, and we also created a private group on Facebook so that we could share photos and videos with one another. We also happen to be huge fans of Google+, which allows all eight of us to video chat at once.

The balance that my best friends and I have created between the use of new and old-fashioned technology has helped us stay in touch in a variety of ways, regardless of the distance between us. The newer forms of communication such as social media, texting and video chatting allow us to engage in everyday conversation without having to wait for the arrival of a package or a letter. However, the more old-fashioned forms of communication that we use such as handwritten messages sent through the mail last a lot longer than a mention on Twitter or a text message ever could.

According to Boffice, “Technology continuously adds new dimensions to our personal interactions.” Because we live in an age where our ability to socialize is mostly dependent on the fastest and most efficient forms of technology, we tend to forget about some of the original forms of communication, such as handwritten letters and telephone conversations. These “dated” examples of communication may not be as simple as posting a picture on someone’s Facebook page or sending a tweet, but these so called old-fashioned ways of communicating have the ability to put a personal touch on the distance between people and give them the chance to keep relationships alive.