This might come as a shock to some people, but I actually remember a time when people actually corresponded with letters. It was quite relaxing actually. You wrote what you had to say to the other person, slipped it into the envelope and posted it. Then you forgot all about it for weeks on end, until the other person replied eventually. In the office, once you’d sent off your stack of letters, you still had time to knock off early and go grab a game of golf before dinner.
These days, I don’t actually do any real work till after lunch as it takes me that long just to get through all my emails and catch up on Facebook. That’s the trouble with instantaneous communication. There’s just not enough time. You send a note, and two seconds later, you get a reply. So you feel compelled to write a reply, and a reply comes shooting back. And on it goes. And before you know it, it’s time to retire and cash in your CPF. And you’re left with the haunting feeling that somehow you kind of should have done more with your life instead of hitting that ‘Enter’ button 5000 times a day.
Meanwhile, your boss wants that report filed while you are on leave. “Surely they have internet at that resort? You can do some work while you’re there, right? And we can call you on your handphone?” (Bosses can be total assholes, but that’s a topic for another column.)
And then there’s Facebook. My cousin David spends his whole life on it. Every minute, he’ll update all 589 friends with what he’s doing. But it’s not as if he’s telling us how he’s saving his world, or how the negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol are going. Instead, they range from the stupid (“Need to pee”) to pseudo-philosophical. “Why?” went one of his posts. This elicited 34 ‘Comments’, and 20 ‘Likes’, which led me to wonder whether I was missing some hidden code. “Why what?” I asked him on e-mail. I got a smiley face in reply. A few minutes later, he posted “Things are turning to prime time!” I stared at that post for a bit, and then removed him from my friends list.
And a few weeks ago, Amanda asked me if I was on Twitter.
“Seriously,” I replied. “Why do I need yet another mode of communication? I can barely keep up with what’s going on in Facebook, and last time I checked, I have 45 new emails.”
Amanda sniffed. “Email is so last century! Nobody emails anymore except to send documents.”
According to Amanda, these days, you can’t get ahead if you’re not on Twitter. Something about condensing information to its bare essentials and then transmitting it to an exponential database. “You never know who you might meet this way,” she said wisely as she tweeted on her Blackberry that she was living with someone who wasn’t on Twitter. “I’m a follower of Oprah, Paula and Ellen. I really feel connected to them!”
I peered over her shoulder as she scrolled down to a recent tweet by Paula Abdul: “Just got back to the hotel after a day full of meetings. I haven't slept! Early night for me. Love you all”.
In spite of myself, I asked, “Where is she?”
“London. She was supposed to be there earlier for Simon’s birthday party, but then she got sick and her doctor stopped her from getting on the plane.” As I later said to Saffy, it sounded like Amanda was in daily BFF contact with Paula.
Saffy shrugged. “Well, I’m following Ashton and I can see why Demi is in love with him.”
I blinked. “Ashton who?”
The bosom inflated. “Ashton Kutcher! Please keep up! I’m also following Anderson Cooper. I keep hoping he’ll get more personal like where he’s going to have dinner, but his tweets are really so deadly boring. All he ever talks about is Afghanistan and the Gaza crisis. I’m sorry but a crisis is the fact that I’ve not had sex in three months!”
I’m still holding out on Twitter though. As it is, I’m now looking at my Facebook friends with the kind of critical eye you’d use to decide who to throw off the lifeboat. I can barely keep up with correspondence on email. Do I really need more friends?
Saffy told me this morning: “Keep this up and you’ll be that guy who dies alone in his bathroom and doesn’t get discovered till the smell seeps down the corridor!”