By the end of the 20th century, the world was a much more dangerous place than it had been before.
The rise of mass communication, along with the spread of antibiotics and new technology, had left humanity in the grip of a pandemic, but with the internet and social media now making communication far easier than ever before, it was thought that things were looking up.
In the first half of the 21st century, we saw the beginnings of a new wave of mass communications, particularly in the form of text messaging, which was then used to communicate between friends and family.
But as the 21 st century wore on, messages started to start to break down.
In March, 2001, the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) released a report titled “The End of Text Messages: A Global Crisis.”
In the report, they noted that the number of texts sent per person in the world had dropped from over 1,000 messages per second in 2000 to just over 100 messages per day in 2010.
By 2021, the number would be lower still, to less than 500 messages per hour.
Meanwhile, in the UK, where text messaging is not widely used, the UK Government announced plans to ban all mobile phone use within 100 metres of any mobile phone tower, which is why the average length of time between texts is just over a minute.
At the end, the message of death is one that has been heard.
In the early 21 st centuries, the most popular messages were those that were meant to be heard, which were often those of people who were in a terrible place at the time.
But by 2021, this was becoming less and less common.
In February 2018, British writer Jonathan Caulfield was found dead, his body covered in the same white paper that had warned of the imminent end of text messages.
“It was just one of those times where you just kind of feel like you’re looking at something from the future,” says Caulfields sister.
“He was a lovely man and we can’t imagine him doing anything wrong.”
Caulfields death also coincided with the announcement of the death of comedian and broadcaster James Cairns, who was found in a park in Edinburgh.
In 2017, Cairn’s suicide note, written in black ink, said:”I’m leaving this world for a few hours, I hope you’ll forgive me for not making this a bigger story than it really is.”
“I never would have thought it was possible to make such a devastating, personal, and profoundly moving statement about death,” says John Daley, the executive director of the Royal Society of Literature.
“I don’t think anyone ever really thought that James would have done it.”
And so, the end is nigh.
Text messages are a reminder that there is still hope.