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Wednesday, July 29, 2009


When he received a journal as a gift, my eight-year-old son was mystified. "Mom, what am I supposed to do with this? The pages are blank." "You write down interesting stuff that happens to you," I said. "So it's like a blog … on paper."

After reading this little story I started thinking about how much communications have changed since I was eight years old. (That would be 1955, if you need a reference point.) In those days, communication was by mail or telephone. When I was eight, I wrote letters and mailed them for three cents. I did not use the phone. If I heard our ring, I yelled for Mom. (For you johnny-come-lately guys, not all rings were the same on a party line. Each household knew their ring. It might be one long ring, one long and one short, one long and two shorts, one short and one long, etc.) We had a party line until sometime in the 1980s. Private lines were too expensive for the average person.
We could make local calls with our rotary dial phone but to make a long distance call we dialed 0 and told the operator the number of the person we wanted to reach and she made the connection. Direct dialing did not begin until the 1960s and even then the operator cut in to ask the number from which we were calling. The long distance calls we made were seldom further than the next county. An out-of-state phone call was made only for important business. I remember getting nervous when I needed to make an out-of-state call in the 1970s.
As the years rolled on, we accepted new methods of communication. We got email in the 1990s, cell phones around the turn of the century, and I started blogging in 2007. This made me feel like I was keeping up with technology but in reality it is exploding too fast for me. I do not know how to send text messages on my cell phone and am not on Facebook. I have heard of Twitter but am not sure exactly what it is or how it works.
With all the fast and instant ways of communication these days, it would seem the problem of misunderstandings which cause relationship problems between people should be a thing of the past. And yet, the divorce rate is higher than ever and counseling services are more, rather than less, in demand. Why?
Communication is a two-say street. If everyone is talking but no one is listening, there has been no communication. When you listen, you are hearing what the other person is saying and not thinking about what you are going to say next. That's what you did when you listened in on the neighbor's conversation on the party line. You just listened and didn't say anything. Now that we all have private lines we have cut ourselves off from our neighbors. Maybe that's why we broadcast our private lives and thoughts on blogs and Facebook. It's a cry for someone to listen.


Meredith said...

I'm listening. Thanks for making your journal public!

Miller scribe said...

Did we really have a party line into the 80s? I don't remember various rings.

Scribbler said...

The last we had a party line we only heard our own ring anymore and we shared the line with only one other family.