How often these days do you receive something through the letterbox that couldn’t have been sent more cheaply and more efficiently by email? Sadly, the days of shuffling around envelopes and bits of paper to the remotest of addresses are numbered. Gizmodo, here, outlines the current woes of the US Postal Service. And I know that things with our own Royal Mail are not looking so rosy either. It’s all rather predictable, really, and it’s nothing more than a reflection of the change in means of information exchange. These days, with Facebook, Twitter and email there is really no need for physical written communications (any more than there is a need for physical dead-tree books).
A century ago Sherlock Holmes would use telegrams to order his heroin, arrange an afternoon appointment with Inspector Lestrade, or book a train to Dartmoor. Fifty years later a telegram was a rare beast that usually signified a birth or a death. It was still essential because, even then, relatively few people had telephones. When almost everybody had a phone the telegram became redundant. Now, with near universal cellphone usage, the landline phone is all but obsolete.
Twenty years ago everyone scribbled letters and waited anxiously for the postman to bring a reply after several days, or weeks. Now we have instant chat, text messages and hardly anyone writes letters any more. I’ve lost touch with several old friends who, stubbornly, refuse to take up email. So be it.