Time does not change…
20 years ago, we had 24 hours each day. Today, our days are still filled with 24 hours. The hours that are available to us do not change. The length of our days is ruled by our planet’s location in the solar system. The sun rises and falls on our sky as the Earth travels around the centre of our system. We cannot change anything about that. All that is left to us is to use the time given to us (as said by Gandalf in Lord of the Rings – not a precise quote, but close enough).
… but how we use it does
But when you compare a typical day 20 years ago with a typical day today, you can’t help but notice one thing: we seem to have less time, especially when it comes to finding time for other people. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier – that’s always kind of the slogan of modern technology. Organize your life with this and that app, keep track of your friends, share more, do more in less time. But to me, it feels like we have less time for proper and meaningful interactions with others.
When I was young(er)
When I was a child and teenager, the internet was only slowly spreading, and the speeds were just as slow. The internet itself was quite small compared to the millions of websites today. I always enjoyed reading and writing, so it was natural to me to be interested in having pen friends – and I had many of them. I usually received 4-5 letters each week, often from a variety of different countries. I enjoyed reading those letters, and I loved writing back. I enjoyed creating lovely looking letters. Each letter was different, and I always looked forward to receiving letters from my favourite pen pals. Some letters were 20-30 pages long! Writing and receiving letters made me feel connected to the world – and it made me feel like there are people out there who would be my friends if only we lived closer together. But then things changed.
Changes – from letters to emails…. from emails to nothing
When the internet became more popular, the popularity of letters shrank. And I did not like it. I wanted to continue writing letters, but many pen pals said that they would prefer using the new technology now. It was so new and exciting. As I did not want to lose my contacts, I agreed, but said maybe we could still write some letters. After a few years of the internet, I had only one pen pal left (fortunately she was my favourite – from Japan, with very long and interesting letters). The ones who were so keen on writing emails stopped at some stage. And then my Japanese pen pal graduated from university, moved to Tokyo, started a job, and had no more time for long letters. We are friends on Facebook now. But that era of long letters has ended years ago.
Handwritten letters today
I can’t remember when I received the last handwritten, meaningful letter. I tried to find new pen pals via internet sites – but nothing truly worked out. Most people wrote 1-2 letters, then nothing else came. Sometimes they wrote excuses via email – but it seems like nobody has time for writing a proper letter any more. Imagine a stranger, somewhere in another country, or even in the same country, sitting down at a table with pen and paper, willing to spend some time just for writing a letter to YOU. It is a present. And nothing is more valuable than a person’s time – but less and less people are willing to give that present.
The present of time
Even people you know find it hard to give away their time. When I left the last place I stayed at, I left hand-written letters for two people. It took me some time, and I thought maybe at least one of them would reply. Even if it was just a short email, or even a Facebook message to just say thank you for the letter. Maybe even reply a little to it – but nothing. After two weeks, nothing. Do we live in a world in which time is so rare that people are not willing to give it to others any more?