Personal letter-writing has dwindled into obscurity just like drumbeats and smoke signals of long ago. The telephone, once a prize communications tool for personal use, is now on the decline. Personal e-mail messages are no longer fashionable. Texting is the latest communications phenomenon. Researchers have reported that text messaging is now the most used data service in the world. 4.2 billion people text worldwide, sending 8 trillion texts worldwide every year. The average e-mail is read 48 hours after being sent, but the average text is read within 4 minutes. Many people now prefer texting to phoning.
People by the millions daily turn on mobile phones and engage in texting. And it has caught on like a raging grass fire across a sun-scorched prairie. Convenience and accessibility are the key motivators. Users can literally text from anywhere, anytime. Literacy goes out the window as users compose quick messages with cleverly- coded words that, in some instances, are only decipherable by their friends. Keeping in touch with friends, family, and acquaintances has become an all-consuming obsession, so much so, that they cannot seem to take their eyes off this device. Walking into objects are daily occurrences. Texting while driving now rivals impairment as the major cause of car crashes.
New communications devices like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Skype, were all invented in the early 2000s, a fair bit later than the mobile phone, but none has, to date, replaced texting, although all are immensely popular with certain users for a variety of reasons, because each communications device has a well-defined use that makes it a favourite with certain users.
The highly-sophisticated pace of technology is now so swift it takes no time for a newly-minted form of communications to go into decline as it is replaced by another. After coming into wide-spread personal use in the mid-1990s, e-mail rapidly became the popular new kid on the block. It was thrilling to receive e-mails from friends and relatives anxious to touch base, and just as much fun replying to them.
These friendly “electronic letters” are now gradually becoming as scarce as old-fashioned written communications that once arrived through the mail. Their popularity has taken a drastic nosedive, much to my chagrin. It began about 2015 and has been sinking ever since. While still used extensively in business, millions of people, somewhat jaded by the flood of unwanted commercial e-mails each day, both at work and at home, have now turned to other devices.
When the use of personal e-mails was flourishing, I couldn’t wait to turn on my computer as soon as I opened my eyes. It was so great to find messages from friends, relatives, and acquaintances, far and wide. They have now dwindled to a trickle. It seems that no one wants to make the effort anymore to keep up a lively correspondence with e-mail messaging.
E-mails are the direct descendants of old-fashioned letter-writing, but are cost-free and much faster. To some extent they even served as a replacement for phone calls. Writers followed almost the same format as letter-writing- complete sentences thoughtfully composed with correct grammar and spelling. It was a matter of pride to show the whole world that you were literate, if not a master of the printed word! And the turn-around time was warp speed. The “electronic” letter could be sent instantly to recipients through the ether. Part of the joy for me was responding to these e-mails with personal news and messages of my own. Alas! The allure for many has gone.