A little over one hundred and fifty years ago if you wanted to invite someone over you went to their door, or ran into them at the market. If you were upper class, you sent the servant over with a note saying “Your presence is requested at Miss Abernathy’s for tea tomorrow afternoon.” You might have sent a homing pigeon.
About a hundred years ago, you could get on the party line, or write a letter to invite someone, or use any of the aforementioned tools. This evolved into individual phone lines for everyone and became the preferred way to communicate with people, or to mail an invitation if you didn’t see them in person. About twenty-five to thirty years ago the internet came along. While it made instant chatting available to those people far and wide; relatives, lost loves, old friends, it didn’t work so well for close to home.
You’re probably thinking I’m nuts, but as the internet evolved our social skills devolved. Sure we could talk to someone in outer Timbuktu and more often, but when it came to the friend across the street or in easy access of the phone, we started to resort to email. I’ve always said email is a cross between a phone call and a letter. You can write out more but you don’t get as much interaction with the other person and it can take far longer to explain or describe something by writing than by having a conversation (remember those?). Case in point; I’ve tried with friends to set a date to get together. I email and say, when are you free. In the next week I can do any date but Wednesday. Two weeks later they get back to me and say okay we’ve got this weekend coming up. I get back to them and say I can’t do this weekend. What about this one? They get back to me and say can’t do that. Another flurry of emails, some long delays and six months have passed without getting together. The second time this began I picked up the phone and called them. Matter solved in a few minutes and a date set.
After the internet, we got Facebook and all its ancestors before that. As well we got text messaging. So what’s the best way to interact? Inane daily events are often recorded on Facebook but it’s not real conversation. And while Facebook is great for letting people know of plays, concerts, dances and other large social gatherings it’s not so great for parties and intimate gatherings. I lose the invitations from friends amongst the invitations to every event in the city. And people don’t respond so it might look like three people are coming to your party when thirty-three actually come. People have foregone the courtesy of yesteryear of responding to an invitation.
How bad is this? Recently I wanted to go see a show where one extra night was added, the rest having sold out. I knew the tickets were selling fast and I thought some of my friends would like it so I emailed eight people and said let me know ASAP because these won’t last. The next day, no response from anyone. I was very puzzled and sent the email again with several test messages to people because I thought my email wasn’t working. But not one person bothered to say yes or no, and because I waited I lost out on getting a ticket myself.
What was I to think:
- I’ve pissed off 8 people from different walks of my life all a once.
- No one likes me or respects me enough to bother responding.
- The internet wasn’t working. (I’m beginning to suspect the internet was OTL last week.)
- I happened to luck into 8 diverse people who were sick, working late, had a broken computer, didn’t check their email, didn’t see the email, didn’t care, all at once.
- Aliens ate my friends.
- Friends A, B, & C prefer to be called. Friends D & E prefer text messages. Friends F & H prefer Facebook and Friend G was jumping off a bridge.
So, what is the solution if email isn’t the best way to contact 8 people? I know I don’t get on Facebook every day and I’ve had the same response there. I don’t have unlimited texting and not everyone has texting. What happens if I have a party and want to invite 50 people? I can’t text or call them all. Do I go back to sending old fashioned paper invitations where no one will call because we don’t use our phones for calling much anymore and if a person has to go from paper to email or text they’re likely to forget? Do I send my servant to their door? Wait, what servant? Do I post on Facebook knowing five people will respond and 20 people will look and go oh no one’s going so I won’t?
What’s the answer? Social media really has wrecked personal parties. It’s okay if you want to go to a club but don’t count on your buddies going. But I think we’ve lost a fundamental aspect of courtesy that is not better in many ways. I think the polite think to do is still to respond when it’s an invitation, when it says RSVP. But I’ve decided to not bother with the party I was going to throw in the next month because chances are, no one will respond. Perhaps the telepathic implants will work better once we get them.