Not so many years ago, shortly after we came down from the trees, there were certain rituals in social networking. We didn’t call it social networking then, because even though the two words probably existed, we hadn’t been clever enough to put them side by side yet.
There was the ritualistic Christmas telephone call to family in far off places. Like, you know, more than two hundred miles away. It took a lot of planning and effort to call the operator and book a trunk call. Then the wait for the operator to call back and say, “Putting you through. Will you accept the charges?”
Then there was letter writing. As many words as you could fit on extremely light airmail paper. Enveloped addressed correctly in your very best handwriting. Or even printing to be extra sure it could be read by the various post offices. Next, a walk to the Post Office to have the letter weighed and stamped for Air Mail delivery. Birthdays took more effort and planning for far away family. Buying a gift. Wrapping paper. A card. Brown paper to wrap the parcel. String or cord to bind it. Another trip to the Post Office for more weighing and stamping.
Then there was the cuppa. When a neighbor or nearby relative would call in just to say hello. And you would immediately put the kettle on. While it was boiling, you began telling each other little tit bits of news. Nothing startling or newsworthy. Maybe discuss the weather too. A cuppa and a chat the ritual was called. It was nice.
However, since putting these words networking and social side by side, things have a changed. Now I send emails, SMS’s, Tweets and Facebook texts to inform my family and friends that I am thinking of them. I use online shopping to have someone else write the cards, wrap gifts and delivery parcels for me to my grandchildren. I can call anyone anywhere on my mobile phone to wish Happy Birthdays! Even if I’m sitting on a bus in the mountains or lying in bed and suddenly realise I forgot to call my sister for her birthday.
I save a lot of money on tea and coffee as no one calls in unannounced for a cuppa anymore. But I can send a Tweet instead. Or browse my daughter’s Facebook page and update myself on her goings on. Photos arrive by email to admire, file and keyword. The only loser is probably the Post Office and my fitness from not walking there nearly so often now.
So am I less sociable now? I don’t think so. It has just changed form and frequency. Whereas before it was long interactions at a very low frequency, it has now become very short interactions but at an almost frenzied frequency. Where once it was every three months, it is now very often up to three times a day.
We always seem to look back with nostalgia at times gone by and think they were better in some ways. But for me, this is one that is much better now. Improvements in communication can only bring us closer.