Friday, February 20, 2009

Post #100

It's all about communication, folks!

Recently one of my English classes was discussing the addictive qualities of the Internet. Some students cited social networking sites (like Facebook and MySpace) as the place where they spend most of their time online. I asked them if they were addicted to the Internet per se or if they were addicted to the limitless methods of communication that the web provides. This got us all to thinking...

I'll be the first to admit that I have been addicted to communication since my teens. In junior high, I used to charge fountain pens and stationery to my mother's account at Pearson's Drug Store just to feed my addiction. In those days I wrote letters to friends I met on vacation in Minnesota, to people who had moved from Iowa City to Arkansas, to my penpal in Devon, England, and to a boyfriend who lived 500 miles away. It was such a thrill every day to see what the postman had brought, and such a downer when there was a Federal holiday and mail wasn't delivered.
My father is the world master grand champion at this sport. I have collected hundreds of letters and postcards from him over the years. When I was a child he'd send me postcards from Austria with pictures of Mecki the Hedgehog and the Lindwurm in Klagenfurt. Then when I traveled abroad or was at graduate school, he wrote me a letter Even when I was married, I received a postcard or some other communication from him every day. Now 5000 miles away in Austria I still get at least 2 cards, 3-4 emails and we talk once a week.

The internet has certainly simplified the process of communication. How easy it is to keep in touch with people, to chat with them pixel for pixel in real time, or to find them after 25 years of "I wonder whatever happened to..." And yet, I find that people are much less communicative than they used to be. It's easy to think "I have so-and-so's email address, I can email him whenever I want..." or "She's my friend on Facebook, so obviously I'm thinking about her." But is it really enough? Yes, it was a pain to find a piece of paper that wasn't stained with coffee or chewed by the cat, to find a pen that actually worked, to find where that damned address book was (behind the fishtank among the dustbunnies), to find a stamp -- and not just any stamp, but one that somehow complemented the stationery you'd written on or the theme of the letter you were sending. But it was worth the hassle to present your words on a piece of paper you'd touched that could be savored by the recipient and placed into a metal "love letters" box or a basket on the credenza for future enjoyment.
My favorite communication of all time came from an old boyfriend when I was living in Missouri. He wrote 8-10 pages of heart-felt prose over several days, and compiled a CD of music he was listening to when he wrote it. I read the letter while listening to the CD and felt immediately re-connected.

Communication: It's all about connection and shared experiences. I don't need fancy gifts or flowers or chocolate, I need to know that someone very far away is thinking of me as fondly as I think of them. It doesn't have to be with pen and paper, a simple email will do. And although I try, I know I don't write my peeps as often as I should or would like to. I'll try to do better. In the meantime, here's what Pliny the Younger had to say about personal communication:

Dear Fabius Justus,
You haven't sent me any letters for ages. You say, "There's nothing to write about." Then simply write that there's nothing to write about, or write only what people used to begin their letters with: "If you are well, I am well." This is enough for me, in fact it is the best I can hope for. Do you think I'm joking? I'm begging you in all seriousness. Let me know how you are, because otherwise I can't go on not knowing without the greatest amount of concern. Farewell.

Now, don't you have someone in your address book who needs to hear from you by email, postcard, or letter? Do it. Now! (and leave a comment while you're at it!)


Regen und mehr said...

first comment...yeah. true words indeed. but I am sure that even without letters/emails/skype calls people think of far away friends - at least I hope so. i miss my fountain pen and receiving letters per snail mail, though. keep it up, joey, i like your blog!

Rebecca Nazar said...

Congrats on the 100th post. I enjoy Blogger. My husband and kids love Facebook. I'd say we're all pretty much addicted.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Congrats!!! Here's to the next hundred. Enjoyed the post. Might make a nice article on the new art of communication.

JKS said...

@Rebecca: As I said, it's all about connections: female writers of a certain age :-) who love the blues!

@Angie: Thanks for always suggesting ways in which I can take my blog entries and turn them into something publishable!

marilyn said...

I went thru a phase where I really liked electric green ink--found some old diaries penned in same. I had a bottle of that ink and loved filling my pen where you pulled up on the lever on the side and the ink was pulled up into the pen.

Maybe if I could find some of that ink, (made by the Parker folk)I would start more correspondence--

Anyhoo, I am going to do better, my lenten order! mjs

Pat said...

You couldn't stay away from the Facebook huh? I can't either. It's too hard to get my friends to reply to a handwritten letter. Are you going to make a homemade King Cake for Mardi Gras?

JOY said...

Great post! I am a writer of notes/letters - still do but not as often as I was. One of my favorite things is to get "real" mail in the snail box! So to give it is important too.

With a blog this year, I am finding myself spend huge amounts of time reading blogs & writing my own. I've got to get the house cleaned soon *laugh*! But I love this additional way of getting to know others.

Kim said...

Enjoyed taking a break from studying to look at your pictures! The view looks beautiful!!

JKS said...

@ Marilyn - Can't wait to get one of your funky green ink letters. Don't wait too long, I should be home in July!

@ Pat - We celebrated Mardi Gras last week and yes, i made a king cake (had to use a pecan half for the baby and used up all my leftover sugar crystals from last year). But my folks send me beads to help celebrate and i'll distribute them Tuesday at school!

JKS said...

@ Joy: I've been trying to revive the lost art of letter writing for years. I really treasure the letters I get from people back home!

@ Kim: Thanks for taking time to check in and leave a comment. Don't you think you owe yourself a European vacation after your big achievement?!

marilyn said...

your room is ready, m

Laura said...

Hi, Joey,

Great communicating! Delighted to hear you are celebrating.

Take care,

Will said...

Why Boss,
is that Pliny the Younger?
I have yet to translate some of his stuff you know ;)
Happy 100th post Boss!

JKS said...

Congratulations on your "First 100!" We enjoy your blog, both pictures and narrative. Also, I enjoyed Marilyn's recollections of her green-ink period. I remember that green ink too, and I liked the lever-action that enabled the filling of fountain pens from ink wells. (Blotters came in handy at my desk.)
Keep up the good work Joey. People far away think of you every day. Jean and D.o.D.