Every year when I was growing up, one entire wall of our living room would be filled with multiple strings holding Christmas cards our family had received that year.
Long distance telephone rates were very high, and the postal system was the most economical way to keep in touch with family members and distant friends. My mother would spend weeks addressing cards and sending long letters to people far away. Even if they did not communicate all year, people still made a point of catching up at Christmas.
Of course, times have changed. We have much easier ways of keeping in touch—telephone, email, Facebook, Zoom, video chat, and many more.
For a number of years after we were married (42 years ago), my wife and I continued the tradition of sending out Christmas cards and letters. I even developed a tradition of writing a creative and humorous form letter containing all of the family news. Often I would arrange for a different “family member” to write the letter. One year it was our new roof, which had been watching over the family and seeing everything that was happening. Other years, it was our new car or a new pet. I never asked our new rug to write the letter because, well, rugs lie.
In return, our friends and family members would send us Christmas cards and their Christmas letters.
As technology developed, I began sending out some of the letters by email. It was faster and less expensive. I even learned how to incorporate photos into the letter, which was far cheaper than having extra prints of the photos made and stuffing them into envelopes. Because it was less expensive, I found I could send the letter to more people.
Today, I send almost all of the Christmas letters out by email, except for a few recipients who do not have access to modern technology.
But something strange happened when I switched to email. When we were sending Christmas cards through the mail, almost everyone we wrote to responded with a card or letter of their own, and some people sent cards and letters even though we hadn’t sent anything to them. But now that we send our Christmas greetings by email, only a very tiny percentage of the recipients respond.
Something strange is happening as our technology changes. We have far easier, quicker, less expensive, and more varied ways of communicating with each other. But we don’t.