Have you gotten any 2008 Christmas letters yet? You know, the kind that sum up a family’s year in a page or two?
Typically included in a holiday greeting card delivered via snail mail, these letters are microcosms of a family’s history. I wish I would have saved every Christmas letter I’ve been given over the years.
I received the first Christmas letter of the current season last week, via e-mail. I’ve received similar e-mails in past years, but this was the first one I’ve ever received electronically from a family member. I doubt that it will be the last.
It’s simply another step down that slippery slope of how we humans communicate with one another.
It wasn’t that long ago that humans used three primary means of communicating – face-to-face, the written word and telephone (and long distance was a luxury for many). Given the effort required, messages generally had more impact, were longer lasting and were easier to save than more contemporary methods.
The primary means of communicating today – e-mail, blogging and cell phones – were virtually non-existent 20 years ago. These new modes are certainly quicker and cheaper than the old ways, but are they better, from a family history standpoint?
Most of us are bombarded by thousands of messages daily, whether from mass media, social media or elsewhere. Sorting through the chatter is such a chore that we run the risk of missing something truly important to us or of simply tuning out. Just managing the messages we deem valuable is a formidable challenge as well. Almost all messages these days originate and exist solely in a digital world, where, presumably, they will eventually perish.
The work of current personal historians and genealogists is made easier by the paper trail of family history that our ancestors have left for us. Are we doing as well for our descendants?
Flickr photo courtesy of cote.