From smoke signals to cell phones. Long distance communication has come a long way. Or has it?

Now we have instant connections to most everyone. But does that mean the quality of the actual communication has improved? Maybe not. Do you ever get to hear a human voice? 

The young folks don’t want to talk to you. Even email is passe. I know; they are busy. So all we get are snips of text phrases. Then you have to keep asking stuff and then they have to reply (never in enough detail to satisfy.) If you really want to hear their voice, you have to text and set up a phone call appointment. Then sometimes they don’t answer that.  So you are out there, floating in limbo, wanting to get some answers to whatever you need to know.

Yes, there is Facetime and Skype, which are better than texting. But since it is the same as a phone call, you still have to get someone to respond.  

Now, I do like texting for a quick question. But if there is to be discussion on something, then you just have to talk. Or not. It is so frustrating, but good for the young people.  They don’t want to hear what you have to say anyway. It is a great boon for them. They don’t have to listen to the older folks pontificate on things. 

Businesses don’t want to hear your voice, either. They do everything they can to keep from it.  Push this number to do this, push that number to do another thing. What if what you want is not covered by those numbers?  Maybe, after you have spent ten minutes, you get to push the number for a person. Then you have to wait an even longer time for them to answer.

Just think how marvelous it was when the telephone first came out.  You finally got to hear a voice. At first you had an operator to connect your call. Then you had party lines where each person was connected, but had different rings. You only answered on your ring. You could eavesdrop on the others, if you had a mind to.

Predating the telephone, there was the telegraph which was so much faster than the mail. It was like texting in code. Again, it was good only for short communications.

Before that, there were letters.  The U.S. Mail Service was commissioned in 1775, with Benjamin Franklin as the first Postmaster General. For years, the Pony Express and trains carried precious missives back and forth across the country.  Later, the advent of cars and airplanes speeded things up a lot. 

Previously, you just sent a letter with someone who was travelling in the general direction of the recipient.  It might take months to get to them. That was the real meaning of snail mail.   Even further back in time, the Indians sent puffs of smoke to relay long distance messages.

So, we have made significant advances in how we communicate across the miles. 

But cell phone technology is a trade-off. What we gain in ease and convenience, we lose in privacy and personal connection. I have a love-hate relationship with it. But technology is here and it is not going away. We just have to be sure we don’t get mesmerized by the spell it weaves in our lives and lose that face-to-face interaction that is so vital to our humanity.  


A former longtime Baytown resident, Ginger Stripling now lives in Mont Belvieu. Contact her at, Attention: Ginger Stripling.

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