Part of me, is squirming and severely opposed to writing this. Me. Facebook enthusiast, text junkie, Whatsapp experimenter… I’ve been a passionate “insta-” addict since the cute little “UH OH” of ICQ, and now, here I sit, committing mutiny against my longtime companion. But, it’s time. It’s time to discuss. Our language, social skills, emotional maturity, and privacy is disappearing: being connected is creating massive disconnection.
At the most basic level, our short forms, slang, acronyms and “emojis” are slowly making us next to illiterate. There was a time when it was frowned upon to use such language in writing, and now, you’re the idiot if you can’t understand it. Punctuation has become somehow extinct, or at least considered highly unnecessary in most cases, which only leads to more challenge in the next level of problem: misunderstanding of tone, meaning and intention. An example at most simplistic level: recently I got a reply to a text where I had told someone I was upset. The message, simply, said “Sorry.” I stared at my phone and found myself wondering… is that sincere? is is sarcastic? But did I call and ask? Hell no: what is this 1990? Seeking clarification by using a device to actually talk, now somehow has become weird…or at least less convenient.
Even before someone has the chance to “misread your tone” – another challenge is we have only our willpower to rely on to keep us from communicating in the heat of the moment. Pre instant messaging, communication methods actually forced a brief time out from conversation or interaction. Someone said something you didn’t like at dinner? Chances are, you had AT LEAST the drive home to percolate, if not a few days to cool off, think it through and approach things rationally.
Under the same situation today, (provided you heard anything that was said at dinner by putting your phone down), you have the freedom and convenience to unload your rage full force on anyone you want, before leaving the driveway! Your new opponent can then respond with equal rage, and so on. Easily pulled into a war, from which it then becomes difficult to “get out of the trenches” because not replying also somehow implies disrespect. During this time when judgment is compromised, some might also seek support by venting feelings in a public forum, where at least a fraction of your thousand closest friends will validate your tantrum and in some cases; lash out at each other regarding opinions. Alternatively, you could post a vague, passive-aggressive status update, while gaining sympathy and also awarding you the high potential of offending someone else, accidentally, and unknowingly.
All this… with the convenient option of “screenshot capability” wherein anyone is free to snap, prologue, edit, censor and share at their leisure so that any other number of people can perceive, judge, translate, infer, personalize, over-react, be offended, and respond however appropriately or inappropriately.
I’m not suggesting a techno-ban. I still love sharing photos and jokes with friends and family, and the convenient of texting, but we need to get a handle and put forth an effort on not letting convenience trump actual communication.
My own “baby steps” as of lately: 1) If a message doesn’t feel “right” (tone, timing etc) I either seek clarification, or, I don’t reply immediately. 2) Taking more phone “time outs” to try and be more present with people, pets, experiences etc. 3) Journaling, or blogging opposed to texting and status-updating.