Mobile Phones and the lost art of letter writing.

Why is it that suddenly in the last five years or so, people can no longer be separated from that ‘integral’ item the mobile phone? Its constant companion and usage to chat, when before I simple phone call in the evening or at the weekend… even the precious committing of pen to paper to compose a letter, which has apparently fallen out of favour in this era of  instant gratification and need to be contactable at ALL TIMES, would equally do in most cases. As if the world might pass you by if you are not in a constant state of availability.

What precisely do you think is being missed during those twenty minutes or so of non contact time? What about in the cinema? That’s a potential 2 hours of time not  connected to everybody you know… perhaps they will have changed friends by then due to  the simple audacity that YOU DID NOT ANSWER THE PHONE.

Personally I would rather throw mine (and I realise the irony of owning one given this ‘rant’ but all will be explained) in the nearest refuse receptacle to hand… well, recycle it, because the complete wastage would make my head hurt and the guilt would be with me  for a long time.

I have one simply because I keep ending up with other peoples cast offs. I am that rare bread of person who has never bought a mobile phone and I certainly never intend to if I can possibly help it. I have a phone mostly because I do a lot of travelling by British public transport which is not the most reliable of systems and I often have some kindly soul waiting at the other end for my arrival. It seems only just and fair to let them know when my train has been delayed by an hour because the line is TOO HOT (I jest not, this has happened… all of five minutes out from the station I would have disembarked at anyway… I could see the platform!), so I have a phone for those occasions when I wish to save someone sitting in their car for hours waiting.

Generally, and feel free to verify, my phone is usually off or at the very least at home and thus NOT ON MY PERSON… apparently this defeats the purpose of ‘mobile’ phones… I still have a landline, if I wish to call my Gran, my mom or my aunt (and those are the only three I ever call) I use the landline…how quaint and old fashioned of me I’m sure. It is my preferred method. I simply loathe the idea that by owning a mobile at the behest of my mother, for aforementioned reasons of timing, I am potentially contactable 24/7 and in any place where I am at the time of someone trying to contact me. What happened to ringing back later? Leaving a message? Why is it now so imperative to get hold of someone immediately at your desire? It never used to be?

How has our culture changed? Why has it changed to embrace this ‘advancement in technology’ but giant steps backwards in our cultural evolution?

Now I am old fashioned in many ways… and maybe now would be a good time to point out that I am 26 so for me to say I am old fashioned… well perhaps it has more scope in this particular context. I am a fan of the written letter, I love writing them, I love the excitement of receiving and then settling down to read them. I continue to have an almost entirely written relationship (friendship type) with my ex… We write to each other every few weeks and the joy of coming home to find that little white envelope with her scrawl on the front is almost palpable and the enjoyment of responding is just as great.

One of the reasons for this is lack of overt comfort with phones on my part. Just because it is mobile doesn’t mean I can use it unless I am in the house. I rarely hear it ring and I can’t hear anyone speaking to me on it, therefore as a phone that you can ‘take with you and use’ it’s a bit of a dead loss really.

Another reason is that with a letter you can take your time over it, you don’t have to write the whole thing in one go, unless you want to of course. You can find a nice place to sit, obtain a cup of your preferred have a bit of a think and maybe at that moment commit pen to paper. However, if time does not permit you to finish you can pick it up and continue at another time without leaving someone half way through a conversation with a dial tone.

One of the reasons I like to talking to my ex in this way is because you can ask questions and you can TAKE THE TIME TO THINK AND ANSWER them in return… there is a lot to be said for thinking before you speak and this method of communication allows you to do so. It has opened up many areas of conversation between us that might otherwise have been left well alone. Also given the status of being each others ‘ex’s’ it offers a bit of a less threatening playing field as it were, again probably the reason why we ask each other so many odd things.

Also, for me at least, I find the way I write is very different to the way I speak. Sometimes I find it easier to get my point across in the written form than I do in the talkative manner and I am often more honest. That is not to say that I am a liar during phone conversations, or during conversations that are face to face, but because with a letter you have the time to think and compose your response and you are not waiting for someone’s immediate answer, means that there is less instantaneous pressure and thus, on my part, more of a willingness to be more open about things like my opinions. You can’t hear the direct judgement of your choice in words.

Or maybe I am able to do all of these things simply because of WHO I AM WRITING TO.

I am coming to the conclusion that letter writing is, or has been for some time, going out of fashion. The rising price of stamps, the speed, or not, of Royal Mail, the occasional postal strike… I don’t believe are purely the direct cause for its decline… I accuse the patience, required to write, to wait, to read. No one seems interested.

My mom and myself used to write to each other whilst I was away at University, yes we spoke on the phone once a week (sometimes more, admittedly) but there is something very different about the way someone comes across on paper than they do in talking, somehow it’s much more personal, both in the way it is written and the feeling that someone has sat down and expended time and effort in order to send you a sheet of paper with their thoughts on it to you. With a letter you can send added accompaniments, unlike with a phone conversation, such as an article you have read that might interest the other person, a recipe, a picture… a gift perhaps or on one occasion I was the happy recipient of a single balloon in a beautiful metallic blue… from my mother. All of this…potential, I feel only adds to the excitement.

Alternatively sometimes you do just need to hear that person’s voice and nothing else will do.

I am not against phones in general, merely mobile phones and the general culture that is  now pervading, surrounding them, i.e. All else is irrelevant I have to answer my phone. Don’t care if it’s a library (or wherever) must chat now, and loudly. It’s selfish and unthinking of others. I can’t say that I want to hear about someone’s life at high volume whilst I am; at the library, food shopping, walking to work etc. I JUST DON’T CARE.


About Nerdsbian

I am a nerd for ALL seasons. Ravenclaw...natch. I am a genderqueer Librarian who unsurprisingly likes reading...a lot. But I also love being outside too...sometimes even reading at the same time. Also animals, any and all of them. Never yet met one that didn't get on with me and vice versa. I do a couple of different voluntary jobs (animal charity related), I am a Brownie Leader and have recently completed my MA.
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