Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why Do We Twitter, ETC?

Why do we blog and text and Twitter and Facebook and email and everything else?

Ever since the first caveman picked up a rock and began grinding things on the wall, we have had the desire to communicate. I have been thinking about this alot, since my husband does not appreciate the current lines of communication. When I send a text or email to someone, he sneers. It seems I should pick up the phone and hear their voice, not settle for the "written" word transmitted electronically.

Last week I went to see the new stage version of Mary Poppins. I do understand that this is not a historical piece, but it did get me thinking about communication in the Victorian era. Pre-telephone people wrote notes. The rich had messengers to deliver these notes when needed. There were multiple mail deliveries each day. Mass media was the spoken voice or newspapers. When events occurred, paperboys hit the streets with special editions to get the word out. Those who could not read or afford the paper had to settle for what the boys yelled or what others told them.

The telegraph allowed our thoughts to be transmitted over longer distances, but the telephone was the next big change for personal communications. Remember the movie Meet Me In St. Louis? The family is excited and shocked that a boy is calling the older sister, Rose, long-distance. There is discussion about a possible proposal and whether or not one should marry a boy who would propose via an "invention." Sounds like my husband's attitude to email, text messages, and the whole social web!

Mass communications also changed through the 20th century, with the spoken word replacing text for immediate dissemination of news. TV and radio replaced the paperboy and the special edition. Newspapers became a once or twice a day publication. Now we are watching many of these papers die as the internet becomes the source of indepth news that they once provided. We can still get our immediate needs met with TV or radio, but we often go online when we want more than can be broadcast.

Personal communications have also changed, moving back to the written word. Fax machines first allowed us to send printed pages quickly, but soon we were emailing and texting information without ever printing it.
So in this brief, rather unresearched history of communications we have come around to written communications again. Some will last, like posts online, and others will evaporate into the ether as soon as the text screen is cleared.
So what will I tell my husband after this mental exercise? Things change - get over it! Some thoughts still require a face to face meeting (I put proposals, break-ups, and really bad diagnoses that I share with patients in this category). Because email and texts do leave a trail, some private conversations should be done face to face or by phone. Otherwise, I believe that anything I can say I can write. Or tweet.

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