“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
Technology has brought major changes to our workplace, home and social life. Work production is speeded up with emails, faxes, phone mail and software programs. Faxes are coming in while we are answering emails and being left brief phone messages. We are multi-tasking and at the same time, the decreasing workforce has doubled up our job tasks that two or more used to do.
At home on our PCs, we reconcile our checkbooks, pay bills on-line, email our daily business and social contacts, and even send greetings by e-cards, We shop online, pay with PayPal and track it all online. We verify our financial statements, even glance over the daily news, make doctor's appointments and check out the doctors' ratings, as well as link in to Map Quest for directions on how to get there - all on-line.
Many of us spend social time on Facebook connecting with old friends or classmates or making new 'friends', and post pictures of our mates and kids. Some people have 500 or 600 friends they 'connect' with. When we decide to take some extra courses or pursue education, we can register, take classes and take tests all on the computer.
And a great number of us even have jobs online - writers, eBayers, researchers or those who 'work from home'. You can look for a new job by answering want ads online, sending in your resume online and checking emails to see if anyone responded.
Our contacts have increased, but our communication has dwindled. Even companies are almost all phone-automated and suggest you contact them through their website....online. Human contact has decreased in many of our lives.
Yet, it appears people are interfacing more. Everyone seems to have a cell phone or iPod or iPhone hanging out of their ears. Even while they are driving. And when they are not actually talking, they are texting, communicating by typing brief, abbreviated messages or checking their Blackberries for brief messages.
But what are we saying to one another? Are we really communicating? Or are they fly-by encounters?
A brief message on phone mail, or a heavily abbreviated texted message, or an email message isn't giving the tone, warmth, or inflection of your voice or body. Read Facebook or Twitter messages - there's a limit to the amount of words you can have on there. Can you really communicate your all thoughts, personality or feelings to 500 or 600 people with a limited message that all 500 or 600 can read at the same time? Can an email hug someone and give a warm fuzzy to someone who is to be congratulated? Can a left message on phone mail give you comfort and support if you've lost someone? And can you feel a smile and enjoy a happy visit with someone on a cell phone?
We are replacing needed emotions and closeness human encounters with machines. Limited and abbreviated conversations cannot replace face-to-face contact or spending time with a human being. Have you given thought to what impact these forms of communication have on our interpersonal skills today and how they change our relationships?
Many teens or young adults spend additional time playing video games. When they text messages or email someone on My Space, many feel they are "communicating." Although that may be true, they may not be connecting. There is a huge difference. Connecting is not just going out on the internet and typing a few words and putting your pictures out there. That's quick, hip and fast. Emails are similar. You get one and instantly return a reply just as quickly. You get right to the point and feel that you have "communicated". How many of them do you remember any that 'made a memory?
When was the last time you received a handwritten note, card or letter from someone? They are quickly becoming extinct. Even greeting card sending has declined with e-card use. A hand-written note is a personal reflection from someone expressly centered on you. There is a specialness in having someone care enough to sit down and compose a note or letter and mail it to you. Have you ever tried to 'save' special messages from texting wrapped up in a bow in your drawer? Even businesses today realize the personal touch of notes and letters and are incorporating them more in their marketing. Are their 'business birthday cards' sent to you the only ones on your mantel?
Many schools today are not even teaching cursive handwriting and the new generations are losing the individuality of their handwriting - they all print. The same. And they are not even printing out letters and cards - they are texting instead.
In our family, work and social life, we seem to be losing social skills more and more. We need the personal contact, pleasant intimate talks, notes or letters, in person visits, planned dates, and social happenings to open up the natural flow of communication and feel close. We need to talk and listen to one another and take the time to cultivate these get-togethers. Machines, computers and cell phones are fine for quick messages. To be close and stay close to one another and make and keep friends, we must bond in person, and give of our time and energies to communicate love and caring. This is best done In words, feelings, and human touch. And face to face. Put down the cellphone and go hug someone.
Marie Coppola © Revised November 2014