was sitting around the model train club the other day, paging through old issues of Model Railroader. I mean old, old issues, like from the late forties and early fifties. So funny and quaint to look back from a time of computer chips and 3D printing at a world of ozone-emitting electronics and block control. But what really struck me was the letters from readers.
Each of them, at the end, included an address. I’m wondering how often someone might say something a person agreed or disagreed with and might have prompted a return letter or two from the readers. And, as one who had several friendships via actual physical mail (including a long-term relationship that lasted four years (and ended not-surprisingly badly), I can say that mailing via post takes no little effort. You need to get the paper and either pen it carefully so others can read it or roll it into the typewriter and peck out your reply. Then there is finding an envelope and a stamp (usually one of the two is not readily available). And then you need to put it into the outgoing mail box (or walk it down the street to the post box on the corner). So yes, you had plenty of time to consider your response, and also a chance for a protesting letter to abort it.
Now, of course, you can see something, flash-analyze it and reply in less than a minute flat. And when you look at it that way, no wonder people are so strung up and storming our capital and going on shooting sprees. In the fifties, you’d maybe read the newspaper or a magazine or two. You’d read your favorite publication. There would be the news on radio or TV. And that was it. There might be a minor slant but journalists (who’d gone to university and at least played at the idea of counterpointing news) tended to report facts and possibly measured opinions. As it stood, the silly, stupid and bigoted comments you’d have to overhear at the barber shop.
But now it floods in, 24X7. Now you can find news networks that pump out one view, a reinforcing yet one-sided view, day and night. Now, even on something like Facebook, you have to get everyone’s take on everything. It isn’t a letter in the post anymore – it’s like telepathy.
And, as Douglass Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide says about THAT:
The Belcerebon people of Kakrafoon used to cause great resentment and insecurity among neighboring races by being one of the most enlightened, accomplished and, above all, quiet civilizations in the Galaxy.
As a punishment for this behavior, which was held to be offensively self-righteous and provocative, a Galactic Tribunal inflicted on them that most cruel of all social diseases, telepathy. Consequently, in order to prevent themselves broadcasting every slightest thought that crosses their minds to everyone within a five-mile radius, they now have to talk very loudly and continuously about the weather, their little aches and pains, the match this afternoon and what a noisy place Kakrafoon has suddenly become.
So yes, think abut what a noisy place your own life has suddenly become. Consider cutting back on your social contacts or one-line time. Me, I’ve removed a couple of blowhards from my feeds and mail and am much happier for it.
You browse bookshelves to find a book just right for you. You don’t buy an entire shelf and drag it home, the good and the bad. Limit your time. Take control of your feed.