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If, in the 18th century, someone wanted to relay a message to someone else who lived roughly 100 miles away, it would take as long as two weeks to reach that person and it wasn’t uncommon for the message not to reach its destination at all depending on the travel conditions for the carrier. Many times, multiple letters were sent out with multiple carriers to increase the chance that at least one copy made it to its final destination.

Before there were any organized postal service or public relation methods many messages were sent with friends, servants, acquaintances, slaves or travelers. The sender had no way of knowing if the letter was delivered, especially long distance, unless they received a reply. Here’s a more in-depth look on the evolution of mass communication since the 1700s:

The U.S. Postal Service

The USPS is an independent establishment of the executive branch of the U.S. government. Tax dollars, however, do not pay for it; it operates as a business. The man that made the United States Post Service what it is today was Benjamin Franklin. According to Postal Exam Review, Benjamin Franklin worked to improve the postal system by making deliveries quicker and more efficient. He started as the postmaster of Philidelphia in 1737 and was later appointed postmaster of the United States when he worked to central post offices around major intersections with large amounts of traffic.

 

Today, the USPS profits are on a downward spiral. Between 2006 and 2015, over 1,000 post offices have closed down due to the digital conveniences that makes possible for people to message each other practically anywhere around the world. Businesses have also seen online opportunities by offering a digital catalog to their customers rather than mailing a physical one this also includes online payments, rather than payments by mail. But what about packages? According to ACSI, FedEx and UPS are leading in customer satisfaction over USPS. Online revenue for the USPS, however, has raised significantly since 2006.

Public Relations

There came a time when mailing letters wasn’t cutting it for some that needed to get a message somewhere immediately. Samuel Morse took initiative by creating the telegraph in 1830, along with an alphabet of symbols, called Morse Code. According to George Washington University, in 1844 the first telegraph message was sent from Washington D.C. to Baltimore, Maryland. By 1866, a telegraph line had been laid across the Atlantic Ocean from the U.S. to Europe.

 

Shortly after the telegraph came the daguerreotype, America’s first glimpse into photography in 1839. Then came the telephone in 1876, the phonograph in 1877, the gramophone in 1887, and the first motion picture camera in 1892. These inventions are what paved public relations and revolutionized the way messages reached the masses.

Mass Communication Today

It isn’t called the “digital age” for nothing. Most people today carry a smartphone on their person at all times, with social media typically being the first thing people check in the morning and the last thing before going to sleep. Nowadays people are starting to wonder if they’re too connected, in the sense that they’re becoming incapable of connecting with people physically. Huffington Post said, “Now that we have Skype, Facebook and Twitter, how long will it be before we no longer need shoes?” The smartphone can make calls, surf the web, play games, run applications and accomplish as much, if not more, than most computers.

 

Everything from entertainment to politics have been affected. With the internet as the main source of communication, entertainers can find a new network of audiences just by using the correct hashtag. Politicians are able to run most of their campaign online, which is a large part of how they gather supporters. So, what’s next in mass communication? Possibly augmented reality a system where you can view the world in a technological overlay. With an unreal reality as a possible future, how long will it be until we stop communicating in the real world altogether?

 

About The Author

Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.