Much of what we know of history, or at least fairly recent history, comes from reading old personal letters. We know a great deal of daily life from reading old letters that people wrote about their daily lives. While historic letters will always be preserved, personal letters are what really tell us about life.
What will the future generations do? There will come a time when the personal letter goes the way of the dinosaur. People simply do not write personal letters any more except perhaps to their grandmother, if they are lucky enough to have one. When I was a kid, one could see letter writing tapering off and the weekly phone call being made. I can remember my parents waiting until the magic time, I believe it was 5:00 when rates dropped, to make a call to relatives. If the call came in earlier, they thought something was wrong or that someone had died.
The phone call has now evolved into texting and email. Human communication has become a series of OMGs and TTFNs. We LOL over jokes and we questions people’s whereabouts by dumb questions like RU@wk. What was once elegant expression has degenerated into a series of grunts and other caveman like utterances.
How will future generations learn of their past? Electronic communications is actually a series of 1’s and 0’s. How will these 2 digits translate into human language? How will we know what our grandparents did after dinner, or even what they had for dinner? How about emotions and fears and courtships. Does anyone write a love letter now? I have a small collection of letters from my father to my mother during WWII. I have gotten a glimpse into this couple as a man and woman who were in love and who were apart because of circumstances beyond their control. It is a glimpse of a young couple that most children don’t get to see. Our parents are/were our parents, not a young couple in love.
In my desk I have letters from old boyfriends, friends and from my grandparents, aunts, and parents. My children won’t have these kinds of treasures from their parents. Their parents didn’t do such things like letter writing. Their parents made phone calls and emailed. Their parents did not text.
What preservation of history will future generations have that show simple day to day life? All the video footage in the world won’t provide a glimpse of ordinary people going about their business doing ordinary things. Letters showed us that.