Before the telegraph was invented, news couldn’t travel any faster than a horse. The slow movement of information had huge historical consequences. The Battle of New Orleans, for instance, was fought three weeks after the Treaty of Ghent–which “ended” the War of 1812. If somebody in Ghent had had a cell phone, there would have been no Battle of New Orleans; Andrew Jackson would have had to figure out some other way to become a national hero and rise to the Presidency.
The slow movement of information had huge impacts on storytelling as well. Think how many of the classic stories would simply evaporate in the age of cell phones. The tragic miscommunication at the end of Romeo and Juliet would have never happened if the star-crossed lovers could have just texted one another. If A Midsummer Night’s Dream was happening today, Hermia would just call Lysander and say, “Looks like we got separated. Meet me at the big tree that looks like it has a face.” End of problem. End of play.
It’s jarring even to watch a movie set in the mid-nineties, which seems pretty modern, except that people are always looking for pay phones and checking their home answering machines.
Your assignment for Audience Participation Friday: Choose a story from the pre-cell phone/texting/Facebook/Twitter/GPS era and give the characters smart phones. Then tell us what happens.
Bonus Apocryphal Story: One of my boys told me about a friend of a friend (urban legend red flag–I know) whose mother thought LOL stood for Lots of Love. This person got a text from his mother that said, “Your grandmother just died. LOL.”