Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bring back conversation!

I've written quite a bit about how technology is good and how it can be incorporated into your practice.  But I think that technology has the potential to tempt us into behaving badly.  There is a lot of evidence to support the fact that people are more likely to speak rashly or act in a way that they would never act when face to face with someone.

Beyond that, however, much of the purpose of technology is to make our lives easier and do things quicker.  I feel this is having a negative effect on the way we interact with people, especially in regards to social media.

First however, let us consider cell phones.  When I was little, cell phones weren't a thing.  It wasn't until I was in high school that pagers and cell phones started being a viable option.  So communicating with people in my childhood was still often done in letters (again, email didn't happen until about middle school) or phone calls.  But long distance phone calls were still a thing, and of course the time difference had to be taken into account.

The thing about letters was that they took time, on all fronts.  You first had to write the letter, which if you were like me and have abysmal handwriting most of the time means that you had to slow down and really put in the effort to write in a manner that would be legible (boy do I love that I can type stuff out now.....much quicker than I can write longhand!)

Then, you had to mail it, and it would take time to be delivered.  The person receiving the letter would read it, and if they wanted to respond, they would have to write their own letter and have it delivered....this whole process could take weeks!

Today, we can fire off an email, send it, and get a response in the same day!  And that is one of the slower methods of electronic communication.  We can post on a forum and seconds after we hit post someone on the other side of the world can read what we have written and respond.  We can use social media and send a message out to the world, or join a chat room and have a group video conference with dozens of people from anywhere!

In fact, many people consider a phone call to be sort of outdated in favor of texting.  Texting has some distinct advantages.  You can text without worrying how loud it is where you are.  You can text and if the other person is busy right then, they can still get your message and respond to you at their leisure.  For many people, reading/writing is less likely to be misunderstood, especially if there is a bit of a language or accent barrier.

But texting has also encouraged quite a lot of behaviors that might not be conducive to true communication.  We have all sorts of contractions that are popping up, and people make up new ones all the time.  While some have achieved mainstream status (like lol, rolf or brb), no one can actually know them all.  Many devices also feature auto-correct, which creates lots of frustration by changing what you are writing to what it thinks you want to say.  I fight with my phone all the time because it doesn't want to accept what I am typing.  And many people don't read over what they have typed (or they just miss small errors), so that can create even more confusion for a reader.

The worst offender, in my opinion however, is social media.  We have sites like Facebook or twitter, which really encourage (or out right force) people to communicate in tiny snippets at a time.  Or to bypass words entirely.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of images (and stickers *grin), but I also often miss words!

Sometimes it is really frustrating, to make a post or try to share an idea, and all you get is a handful of likes.  Sure, it is great to know that people like what you are posting, but I crave conversation!  If I post something that makes you think or react, share what went through your mind! 

I feel there is a time and place for simply hitting the like button.  I understand that often people check their phone when they aren't really in a place to respond well.  Or perhaps you see a lovely image or meme and it makes you smile but you don't truly have anything to add.  I have hit like sometimes when I am really at a loss for what to say (though I am much more likely to find a sticker to use as a response when I have nothing to add). 

But I feel that we are loosing our voices.  We are forgetting what conversation is.  We are no longer thinking and truly reacting to things.  We are just watching the world around us pass us by as we click like and follow and add emoticons.  We are surrounded by all this input, and yet often feel so lonely because there isn't actual interaction going on....if your response could have been automatically generated by a yes/no program, maybe it is time to think about whether you are actually showing up for the other person or not.

Perhaps it is time to really examining how we are spending our time.  If I spend an hour scrolling through Facebook, and only use the like button, have I truly reached out to anyone?  If I read an article or watch a video that brings me to tears and all I do is post a sticker, have I actually expressed what went on in my heart?  If I don't stop and think about what I am experiencing, is it really worth my time to read/watch it?

This is one of those slippery slope issues that I think can slide by your awareness without you even thinking it is a problem.  We have become trained to act in this way, to value information dump and knee-jerk reactions instead of actually connecting with people.  But that doesn't mean you can't realize what is going on and made a decision to change!

It is time to bring back discussion!  Take a moment to type a response to things that really touch you!  If you see someone trying to start a discussion, chime in!  If someone asks a question, answer it!  If someone shares a bit of their soul, honor it with a response.  If someone is having a bad day, words will be more soothing than seeing that 5 people 'liked' their trouble (I always thought that was an odd response.....)

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