When I came to Canada, my main mode of communication with all my friends was writing letters; there was no email, and phone was very expensive. I wrote three to five letters every week and mailed them. It would take somewhere between two weeks to one and a half months for the letters to get to Europe or Iran and back. Every week, I received letters. I was always updated on how my friends were doing, news and well-being of their families, and specific details as how they felt at different times, what flowers they planted in their garden as the seasons changed, their latest artistic creations, who visited them, etc. I had a strong sense of having friends and knowing them very well. I often thought that it would have been great if there were faster, easier modes of communication than letter writing.
Twenty years later, I am still living in Canada. Phoning is extremely cheap, my friends and I all have access to internet and email. It is easier than ever to stay in touch with friends and family. Did “fast and easy modes of communication” translate into “frequent or regular” communications?
A friend of mine visited me this summer. One that I used to correspond with via letters regularly. I noticed that I barely knew her. I had no idea what her children did after our last phone call which happened about two years ago. I had no idea what was on her mind these days (rather, these years), I discovered that she had resumed some of her old hobbies and acquired new ones only when she came to visit me. Yes, I receive emails from her, and she receives emails from me. Most of them are about a piece of news, or a petition, or warnings about dangers of just about anything including baby carrots, cell-phones, or coke; you know the type of emails that have no name, no data or scientific facts.
What has happened? I cannot blame the internet or email. If anything, they have made it easier and faster to communicate. Why do we feel the urge to warn our friends, acquaintances, and perhaps just about anybody about pieces of news they might have already received from others? Do we find an equal urge to write to them personally and share whatever we need to share with one specific friend? Is it the necessity/priority of being connected to information that keeps us from connecting more personally? Or is that we are just growing more impersonal?
I am frightened. I worry that we are growing farther apart and not closer. We keep creating means to connect and communicate faster, easier, and with a great number of people simultaneously. I guess we now need to create a device that gets us to pause, to think of one person at a time, and to motivate us to connect to one person at any given time. What is more important?
Perhaps, my experience is an isolated one. Do you feel connected more than before?