Communication. Merriam-Webster defines it thus:
Communication: a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior
Seems pretty straight forward, right? One individual has a thought or an idea he or she wishes to share with another individual. So, we convey these thoughts and ideas using words, pictures, or even body language. We don’t even need to be present for communication to take place. We can use a sign or a symbol to get our message to its intended recipient without even occupying the same time or space they do. The means by which we communicate vary as widely as the what we communicate.
I have witnessed, over the last twenty-five years or so, a rather paradoxical phenomenon when it comes to how we interact with one another. We can now get our message to millions of people at the same time as the use of social media has exploded over the last few years. My news feed is chock full of cat videos, political commentary and status updates with pictures of what my friends had for dinner last night. With one click you can show everyone on your ‘friend’s list’ that cool new shirt you just bought, and probably paid WAY too much for.
The paradox, for me I think, is that despite the amount of information we are sharing with one another, and the ease with which we are able to do so, the quality of that communication seems to be decreasing at an alarming rate. I am lucky to have a group of family and friends that are pretty chatty on social media, refraining from the shorthand of single-letter words and emojis in our interactions with one another. But, I see a very disturbing trend developing in my seventeen-year-old son’s generation. These kids barely speak to each other unless it’s through the phone in their hands.
I picked him up from school the other day, and there he was, standing in a crowd of his friends, and every single one of them had a phone in their face. What I found particularly alarming, is that some of them were texting each other, when they were standing three feet apart!
I worry that we are losing essential parts of our intrapersonal interactions. When you are engaged in a conversation you have to think and discuss critically, you can read the expressions as well as hear the words of the person you are speaking to. I believe that we lose that critical skill if we don’t practice it. It becomes easy to detach yourself emotionally when you don’t really have to have any meaningful interaction.
The times change, technology changes and people adapt and change with it. But, I feel that we stand poised to lose skills vital to our humanity. How many of you write longhand with a paper or pen for any longer than is necessary to sign your name? I don’t even know if I could have written this short post in longhand, without my hands contorting into a mass of cramped and palsied fingers.
I’m sure every generation has had similar concerns, it just seems to me we are in danger of losing some vital aspects of our humanity the further we go into the future.
What are your thoughts? I would love to hear.