Saturday, March 24, 2012


Today we are surrounded by methods of communication. Cell phones are small enough to be kept at hand, allowing instant connection. Text messages can be easily and quickly sent. We can share information in seconds.

So why does it seem that inter-personal contact has come to a halt?

You are meeting a friend for lunch. He arrives, sits down and immediately places his phone on the table. When his phone rings, see how long it takes him to see who is calling. Will he continue his conversation with you? Is the caller someone with whom he would rather speak? Will the person across the table even offer a phrase like, "Excuse me" or "I need to take this." More likely he will just pick up the phone and start talking as though you weren't present.

Chances are the exchange underway at the table was less than a two-way conversation. People used to interact over a meal, discuss issues, listen to what other folks had to say and pay attention. People involved in this activity were said to be "talking," exchanging ideas and points of view.

Conversations rarely exist in that form today. More often than not, one person says what he wants to say, continuing on until he is either finished or out of breath. As he drones on, the other participant may nod and make eye contact, but has ceased listening. Instead, he waits off stage like an actor in the wings, anticipating what he will contribute should an opening present itself.

When did this transition occur?

I believe it began in the mid-1990s, approximately when cell phones became prolific. People learned to speak on their phones while also performing some unrelated activity -- walking, cooking, even driving -- and without the restriction of eye contact. This freedom brought with it the ability to contact people for no apparent reason and to share momentous events such as "I'm going into Walmart now" or "Was it the large or small olive oil you needed?"
I've actually heard people ask, "What did we do before cell phones?" The answer is: talk to each other. Truth is we used to function just fine, thank you.

Talking isn't the only victim of modern technology. When was the last time you received a personal letter? (Email doesn't count.)

In past decades, people used to take the time to write letters. It was the only way to express how you felt or to adequately describe what you had seen in another part of the world. Writing a letter required time and craftsmanship. Many of the letters written to and from home during the Civil War were beautifully worded and carefully structured. Despite the fact that many writers had minimal education, they prepared eloquent correspondence.

Doesn't a well-educated population result in more literate correspondence? Not exactly. Few people even look at what they write. They hurriedly compose a few sentences in an email and then send it without even the benefit of Spell Check.

Because technology is so "modern," it may have interrupted the age-old process of talking to one another. Sad.

No comments:

Post a Comment