It seems complicated but it’s actually rather simple.
Think commoditization. It usually devalues an item in some way. Take a house, for example. Houses used to be built with good metals, heavy stones, heavy wood, had virtually sound-proof walls and were indestructible. Today, new homes are made with plastics instead of metals, cheap concrete and paper thin walls. And they’re about as sturdy as a box of cotton balls.
The new houses do get the job done, but don’t last like the older homes. They don’t carry their value like the older homes. They just start to break up over time.
This is the way that communication seems to be heading. New mediums come along literally every month, and while the initial reaction to them is, “Look, another way to connect to my friends!” it’ll eventually turn into, “…oh, look another way to connect to my friends…” while they still scramble to use said medium. If it’s faster and brings you ‘closer’ to your friends, that’s all that seems to matter.
But how much closer and how much faster can you get than a realtime, simultaneous, reactive, in-person or verbal conversation?
The wild thing is, these channels through which we connect to others sometimes actually feel like they’re increasing real communication and sustaining relationships. But, quite the opposite is true. And ultimately, how many ways do we really need to communicate? Quick, fragmented communication is useful when trying to send a short message, but we can’t forget about the capabilities of facial expressions and long pauses and awkward silences. Technically, they’re not forgotten about yet, but we still somehow believe we’re conveying them over these electronic signals. In a heated argument over SMS, a guy’ll think, “…now she wants to get silent” when in reality she hasn’t actually spoken a word to you, and she’s not as emotional about the ordeal as you were hoping. That ‘silence’ is probably her battery being dead. There’s no smiley for that, buddy. Should’ve picked up the phone.
In another instance, you may have sent one tweet too many when you know what your good friend will ‘lol’ at and how many laugh-crying emoji’s they’ll post, but you’ve forgotten what that person’s actual laugh sounds like. It’s speaking from a glass case of electronics. That’s not how we as humans function most effectively. That’s not how our bodies were designed to communicate.
What I’m getting at is that these fragments of communication have a tendency to fragment relationships. It’s easy to think that these bits and pieces of abbreviated conversations, wall posts, retweets and smileys all add up to full conversations but they don’t. They can’t, they simply lack the fluidity. Again, it’s the quality of the means of communication that matters most. Voices and tonality, eye contact, body language, the subtle things. Those are what we inherently know how to interpret.
And this is what we should remember to preserve, as we get flooded with ‘easier’ and ‘faster’.
I don’t have a revolutionary solution to this, I just think it’ll be better in the long run to promote our natural means of communication. I’m not trying to ban all forms of instant messaging, but make sure the phone call takes and keeps precedence over the text. Share that picture over margaritas instead of Instagram. Show that video while on line for a movie, instead of in a line of comments on Facebook.
Just, show up to things. Be around.