– Friedrich Nietzsche
I’m working on a theory here, so bear with me a moment.
We know that holidays encourage us to reach out and reconnect with family and friends.
This used to be done with personal visits. In fact, if you read the pages of The Augusta Chronicle in previous centuries, you find that a common custom was to pay a call this time of year on those you liked or loved.
Greetings and gifts were exchanged. Friendships were confirmed and renewed.
It was a simpler time.
Then we began to spread out. Families moved elsewhere – for work, usually. So we reconnected with Christmas cards. It was this way for a long time.
Gradually, however, as telephone use became cheaper, phone calls took over.
But not for long.
Telemarketing abuse and political propaganda disguised as constituent service pushed many to ignore their phones. Voicemail and Caller ID allowed us to filter out the phonies, checking back later to see whether they were worth returning.
Cellphones probably increased the habit.
Anyone with teenagers has watched them glance at a ringing cell, shrug and put it back into a jeans pocket. When the parents look at this oddly, they are told, “I’ll call them back,” in a tone that lacks much commitment.
And just as most of us began to become immune to the social pressure to immediately answer a ringing phone, e-mail evolved into the omnipresent avalanche it has become over the past decade or so.
My wife and I used to share our e-mail numbers each night when we got home from work to see who handled more that day. Invariably it was more than 100 each. Sometimes twice that.
Unfortunately, I discovered, messages were getting buried. Who hasn’t found a forgotten e-mail from someone down in the bottom of the pile ... or diverted over to a junk directory by mistake?
Maybe that’s why the young people (anyone under 70) now seem to rely on text messages.
I find myself using them more and more, but there’s a problem with them, too. I sometimes don’t hear the little “beep” or vibration that tells me I’ve got one.
That’s why I was almost in bed Christmas night when I noticed my youngest sister had sent me a greeting earlier in the day – a greeting I’d missed and had not responded to.
The result? Despite the fact that I have both cell and house telephones, three different e-mail addresses and a text plan (not to mention Facebook and Twitter accounts), I had missed a holiday communication.
Somehow, some way I had found a way to become “unconnected.”
Next year, I might resort to writing letters.
I hope the postal service is still in business.