Just the other day my friendly postman delivered my mail as normal except this time there was a big difference. He was delivering mail that had been posted to me five years ago! 

Yes, the letters which popped through my letter box had been posted in January 2007. The ‘lost’ mail was accompanied by a letter of apology from my local depot manager saying that it had been ‘retained’. There was no real explanation as to where my letters had been, maybe in the drawer of some post person’s desk? I have absolutely no idea!

Coincidentally on the same day, I was trying to work on my PC and suddenly, with no warning, it decided to do an upgrade and I was left with the dreaded blue screen scenario.

With a PC that was out of action, I thought I’d give some 2012 technology a whirl by trying the Dragon speech dictation functionality on my iPhone. Thinking back to my ‘missing’ letters I thought it would be interesting to dictate my thoughts on the new technology that has arrived in the last five years during which my letters have been absent without leave and the changes that have taken place in how we communicate.

But, let’s start by taking a look at what’s happened to Royal Mail itself. It has gone through some interesting times over the last five years as it has had to compete with the new ways of how we all communicate. When was the last time you wrote a letter and posted it? The only person who ever actually writes to me is my solicitor and he does that because he charges me well for the privilege!

A quick search on the web seems to indicate that in terms of volume in 2006/2007 around 84 million pieces of mail were sent every day. In 2011 this has dropped to around 60 million. A big reduction.

But, not as big as you may think when compared to the massive explosion of technology which now allows us to communicate in so many different ways. There is less and less need to put pen to paper and use Royal Mail. I wonder how many youngsters have ever written a letter, or even know how to write one correctly.

So how do we now communicate?

Increasingly via e-mail. During the last 5 years, there has been huge growth in e-mail traffic. In 2007 we sent approximately 200 billion e-mails and by the end of 2012 we will probably have sent more than 100 trillion!

Via our Smartphones. Our high end mobile phone built on a mobile computing platform. Smartphones allow us to do so much more than simply make a mobile phone call. Today’s Smartphones are really like having a fully featured laptop in our pocket.

The iPhone, on which I dictated these thoughts, only came onto the market in the Summer of 2007. The next generation following in just about a year. In June 2010 Apple introduced its iOS 4 and the iPhone 4 and on 4th October 2011, the latest iPhone 4S became available.

Amazingly, on 10th October, Apple announced that over one million iPhone 4S’ had been pre-ordered within the first 24 hours of being on sale, beating the 600,000 device record of the iPhone 4. Our iPhone allows us to communicate via a phone call, e-mail, text, Facebook, Twitter, etc., etc.

Another Apple phenomenon is of course the iPad which was released only in April 2010 and 3 million devices were sold in 80 days. By the release of the iPad 2 in March 2011 more than 15 million had been sold. Once again our iPad allows us to communicate exactly how we want, except make a phone call!

Now let’s think about the rise of social media platforms

When my letters fell into a big black hole, Facebook was not available to everyone. Can you imagine that! It was not until October 2007 that Facebook was opened to everyone aged 13 and over with a valid e-mail address. In September 2011 Facebook had 800 million users!

Twitter was also in its infancy in early 2007. In June 2011 Twitter had over 300 million users, generating over 300 million tweets and handling 1.6 billion search queries every day. Using Facebook and Twitter we can, if we wish, be in constant communication with whoever we want. People know what we are doing and thinking and we know what they are doing and thinking.

All the different communication technologies which have come into play during the last five years mean that we now live in an ‘always-on’ world. Because there are so some many ways in which we can communicate, we are very rarely un-contactable. It is ever more difficult to switch off. More and more people expect to obtain the information they need right this second and if that means contacting you out of ‘normal’ hours then so be it – they won’t think twice.

But an interesting point to ponder…. part of the post which arrived five years late, included my wife’s January 2007 Times Educational Supplement and on the front page there is an article which says that if you want to be economical with the truth then do so in an e-mail. Apparently research had shown that one in seven of all communications in the workplace contained lies and that people are more likely to lie when they don’t have to look the other person in the eye! Has that changed in the last five years?