Saturday, August 04, 2007

I remember when snail mail was still the common way to send letters. I would select the most appropriate paper and envelope I could find. But first, I would write my draft on a “scratch pad”, then painstakingly copy my letter to stationery. Of course I would select a good pen and would be too conscious about how each strokes would be done. It would take even more effort to go to the post office, line for stamps and drop the mail. I remember the anxiousness and agitation, wondering if my letter was already received. But the days and weeks of anticipation do not matter in comparison to the excitement of receiving a reply. If you’re like me, you would open the envelope, meticulously read the date when the stamps were cancelled, and count the date backwards to find out when it was sent.

That was not a long time ago. Today we have email and text messages. I wonder what could be next? Of course, this advancement in technology has it’s price. I’m not referring to the value of each mobile phones, although some of them have inconceivable price. I’m referring to how it changed our perspectives in communication.

Right now, when we send letters through email, we expect that it will be answered within the day, if not within hours or minutes. We would get disappointed if our email would be replied tomorrow or the day after it. We would be annoyed when our boss would not stop to ask if we already received reply from our customers, and there is none.

The expectation is even more intense with text messages. I know of couples who would get into disagreement when one of them would not be able to reply within hours after a message is sent to the other’s mobile. Because of the speed in which we send information, we err to believe that all of our messages must be answered immediately. Because of the speed in which we receive information, we fail to distinguish between what is urgent and what is not, what is important, what is trivial.

Perhaps one error is to equate information with communication. To inform is to give an idea of, but to communicate is to exchange information. We may inform but not necessarily communicate, but whenever we communicate, we inform. The error is to think that when we constantly send email or text message, we are already communicating with the recipient. In fact, we may not be aware of it but we may already be spamming, or giving unsolicited messages. With the advancement of technology, there is a danger that the content of our message has diminished if not lost altogether its value. If we are constantly bombarded with messages, the tendency is to ultimately ignore the messages altogether. Worst would be to arrive at a point when the sender fo the message will be totally ignored as well.

New technology does not necessarily mean that we have progressed in our knowledge. In fact, because information is easily accessible, we could as easily get the wrong or false information more than the facts. With spell checkers available in our word processors, and with the evolution of text shortcuts in SMS, we should not wonder if in case we will regress in our education.

Almost ten years ago, my friends and I used to meet after office. We would even meet sometimes during weekends. We would call each other before we leave our work and agree on a specific time and place to meet.

Mobile phone was not yet popular at that time, at least not in the Philippines. The internet was just starting to be popular. But not everyone had an internet connection nor an email address. To get an internet provider would be costly, even more to own a PC. One could not even imagine that there would be a thing called SMS. But we did not miss to communicate, or at the very least get in touch with each other. In one way or another, we knew how each one was doing.

Things have changed. Today, we rarely see each other. We could only meet if one would celebrate birthday. Sometimes not even. It is very ironic how technology has advanced in terms of communication, yet we now fail to see each other. In fact I even receive more text and email messages from acquaintances. And I’m sure that they even receive less from me. I must write them a letter soon.

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