Social Media has often proved a mystery to me. I came to it only to be able to monitor my children as they became old enough to participate in it. (Yes, I am that mom.) While I participated on the fringes, I never really embraced the various outlets for social media until recently. Esther Lee Richardson grew up in the early 1900’s. I am fortunate to have many of her postcards and letters from her family and friends from the time she was thirteen years old in 1906 until her death in 1923. As a teenager she had no facebook, no twitter, and no instagram.
But did she?
Esther had letters and postcards and photographs. I often wonder why in the small space provided on a postcard she and her friends would take up valuable space to write things like: “How is the weather?” “It is still raining here.” ” How are you? I am fine.” Often the postcards would say nothing beyond this. These postcards were the very short version of what was happening in her life and the lives of her family and friends.
The longer letters were still filled with statements about weather and health, but also included more personal information. Church meetings, illness, death and the price of crops were common topics. Oh yes, the declarations of love were in there as well! In the lettesr we get a larger glimpse into the teenager girl’s life.
In the early 1900’s photographs were becoming inexpensive enough for the general public to embrace. Embrace them the young adults did. What teenager then (and now) doesn’t love to take photographs of themselves and their friends and share them? In my great grandmother’s things, I found many small photographs such as this one of family and friends tucked in her letters and old photo album. Esther’s sharing of her life with her friends was not as instant as sharing is today, it was no less important. While I was struck by what seemed to me to be the mundane in her correspondence, I realized the content wasn’t the most important part to her (except maybe those love letters from her beau!)
What was important was being connected. It still is.
My great grandmother and her friends stayed well connected. Just as I stay connected with my family and friends through Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. Just as my children stay connected with their friends.
So, yes, my great grandmother used social media.
It wasn’t electronic. It wasn’t instant. It wasn’t in real time. It was just as important.