Looking back through the early days of my Hotmail account recently was like uncovering a dusty box full of letters in my parents’ attic.
Among the job applications, work experience pleas and the occasional Amazon order were lengthy messages to and from old friends – many of whom I have now drifted out of personal touch with.
Writing e-mails in those days – the early 2000s – was like having a penpal. My friends and I, who had all recently graduated, kept in touch via lengthy group missives detailing the minutiae of our lives. Reading them, I remembered so many facts I’d since relegated to the back of my mind. The messages agonising over career choices. The first engagements, houses bought, babies conceived.
But around 2007, these letter-style e-mails stopped. What happened? Did we all fall out, move on? Not at all. The reason is simple: in 2007, we all joined Facebook.
From that moment, e-mail became as antiquated as written letters had been a few years earlier. Everything was communicated on a public “wall” – quick, snappy retorts that not only my closest friends but a couple of hundred other people would see, too. And while we still use Facebook private messages for those things you just don’t want made public, they are shorter. Facebook has changed the way we communicate.
Although I am still in contact with most of my close friends from my university days, there are others – people who I realised on my recent Hotmail trawl I still swapped long e-mails with a decade ago – who I have literally not spoken to in years. However, thanks to Facebook, I don’t need to. I know when their children were born, where they live, what they do for a living. But nothing beyond that.
I’m not saying Facebook doesn’t have its place, but I’m going to ensure it’s not my only means of communication.
I’m off to write my best friends an old skool group e-mail and see what happens. Maybe we’ll even try pen and paper next.