As I sat down to write a blog on something entirely different from where I am going to go, my instant messenger awoke and brought me a plethora of fabulous messages from our son in London. When he found his mother was still on European time and wide awake since 4 am we quickly switched to FaceTime and I had a long fabulous chat while I got to look at his handsome face and hear about his first week at work. While traveling (and wandering around places visually taking in the feasts of the sights) I had a lot of time to think. One of the topics whirling it's way through my brain .... is that of electronic communication.
As a HUGE Jane Austin fan, who also follows and absorbs other period literature which reflects on the societal interactions of people, I love observing human interactions, including communication with the written word. Dropping by and leaving a social calling card, a written invitation, or a love letter...whether engraved on paper, handwritten in ink, and delivered by various methods all intrigue me. Although I grew up in a home where thank you notes were a strict requirement, and then rebelled against them for a way too long period of time, I love nothing more than getting a correspondence. I love the mail. I love an invitation, a thank you note, or a friendly card. The thing I love most is a love letter or poem written by my husband. No wait, I love those with all of my heart, but the thing I love the very most is a letter, card, piece of art, or very thoughtful text from one of our children. I don't feel disingenuous saying this part about ranking our children's communication above that as my husband's because I would imagine he feels the same way.
You hear so much negativity about everyone's noses being down to their screens. While traveling this month and observing people from all over the world, I witnessed this first hand. I did it myself at times. Yet, I think there is a very lovely part of this era in time....because in some ways, I liken it back to the Austin days, when written words were used to make social and love connections. Disclaimer: According to Doug Chapman's fabulous and intuitive book The 5 Love Languages, there is no question- my love language is words.
Those of us of a certain age talk about how we grew up without social media, texting, portable communication, etc etc. We bask in this fact and talk about how hard it would be to be young now and seeing what everyone else is doing. FOMO our kids call it. The Fear of Missing Out. The comparisons are obviously challenging, especially for teenagers and young adults. When we were kids we didn't know what others were doing or what we might be missing. We had no answering machines. We had no call waiting. We had to call from a telephone located in a public room of our house attached to wall not far from adults and chances are you were going to get a parent on the other end of your phone call to your friend. My own parents monitored my greetings very carefully for a time and finally relented when I had the "Hello Mrs. So and So, This is Tricia, MAY I PLEASE speak with Bloopty Bloop." If that "May I please" was not said, there would be loud whispers at me, guiding me into correcting myself. All calls had to be made in very respectable hours. Communication with the world outside of your house stopped around 9 pm unless you were assured there were not parents home at the other house. We didn't have man servants delivering handwritten notes at all hours of the day like the lovelorn in Austin's day.
I like to think of written communication whether it be emails or texts, or private messages as some sort as a modern way for old fashion communication. The fact that millennials, and now many of the rest of us, no longer prefer talking on the phone has taken us back to a time before we had them. A quick message to connect to new people is like as a social calling card dropped on a silver dish in the foyer. An email invitation for dinner as a noninvasive way to invite a potential friend mimics the old fashion note delivered to their home. A text from a child telling you what they are really thinking or feeling, and a love email from your paramour resemble the written words of the Austin era.
As I end this piece my messenger awakes again. This time it is the identical twin of my earlier morning communicator. (And yes, they have contacted me in birth order.) This one is from France. This joyful boy is sharing news and thoughts and ideas. My heart is full.