Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Communication in a Techy World

So Tuesday I went to the doctor because I really thought I simply had not fully gotten over the flu that started way back in December. After all....I have fought congestion forever and my stomach has never been the same. On Monday they did a sonogram of my stomach and Tuesday I went in for the results. Instead of seeing the doctor right off, a D.O. (doctor of osteopathy) and a student came into talk to me. I immediately disliked the D.O. right off the bat. He was young and had that air of knowing it all and somehow being on just a slightly higher plain than the rest of us. I've known too many like him. At any rate....he asked me numerous questions never adverting his eyes from mine. I locked his gaze and answered each as he asked it. Each answer was met with a smirk from the D.O. I was getting irritated but refused to show it as I was wanting the final answer on what was going on with me. Apparently though Dr. D.O. wanted to continue smirking at my answers as if he didn't quite believe what I was saying. Finally....after I had answered what I was hoping was his last question...he looked at me and said (again with the direct gaze and smirk), "So how attached to your gallbladder are you?" It was obvious he thought himself quite amusing. Without missing a beat I replied, "No more attached than I was to my tonsils, my appendix or my uterus. Why?" It was fun to watch the smirk fade from his lips and his eyes avert mine while trying to think of something to say. Yeah...I am evil at times. What can I say? That's just how I roll. And yes.....I do have gallstones and as of next Monday....just like my tonsils, appendix and gallbladder will no longer be residing in my body.

When you can see someones face when you are speaking with in the case of Dr D.O., you can often read their expression and know the context of what lies behind their words or conversation. In most people unless someone has their poker face honed down to an can know context with expression with just a look. That is the beauty of face to face conversation.

The other day I was watching Z as he was talking to me and obviously carrying on a texting conversation with someone else. His fingers never stopped as he answered the perfunctory "yes", "no" and "I don't know" to the questions I asked. Then I asked him if he did that at school. He wasn't sure what "that" I was talking about. Why texting of course. He let me know that yes, in some classes it was okay to text.....and I am sure that even in the classes that it is not okay.....they do it anyway. It was the equivalent of my generation writing notes....and yet nothing at all like it.

All of this got me to thinking about this new generation of texters, facebookers and tweeters. What has happened to the art of conversation? Perhaps my brain is more in tune to this right now because I gave fb up for Lent. The first few days.....although I didn't post anything....I confess I still read a few posts to make sure that I wasn't missing something. After that though.....fb and the computer (other than blogging) has almost become non-existent to me. I have also noticed that I have talked on the phone more in the last couple of weeks than I have in years....and you know what????? I like it!!!

It seems to me...and I know what I am about to say is not an original thought....that we are losing our ability to communicate face to face. We are relying on technology for communication without ever even seeing the person we communicate with. Granted....most people we text we hopefully see semi-regularly, but lets face this high tech many people do we fb, tweet and email every week that we have never laid eyes on? Facebook has fooled us into believing that if someone is on our "friends" list....that they are then in fact our friends. The fact is.....when we first start talking to them....they are not our friends. They are acquaintances and many of them we are likely never going to meet. Yes....there is a an upside to this. I have met some truly wonderful people on fb that even though we have never laid eyes on each other.....I consider them amazing friends. However...most that are not personal and local friends are just people that may have my same political beliefs, have a child with special needs or they are friends of friends who thought we ought to be friends. Likely I will never have a face to face conversation with any of them.

Also the downside to all of this fb, tweeting and emailing is that unless we are communicating for business...there is every possibility that at some point, something that we say is going to be taken out of context or misinterpreted because the people A) don't know us and B) can't read our expressions through fb or email. It is very easy to have even the most innocent of posts be taken completely out of context and thus cause hurt feelings or the loss of a "friend." There have been times that I start to post something meaning it as funny or maybe slightly sarcastic but not hurtful....but when I go back and reread it.....I feel the need to put some kind of a smiley face or and (lol) at the end, so as not to be misread. Lets face it...if you can't see someones face then it is often hard to tell if a sentence is accusatory or a simple question.

In so many ways....communicating through technology has caused us to lose not only the art of conversation but also the art of communicating properly through the written word. As I said about Z.....he would much rather text than carry on an actual face to face conversation. With me as his mother though....he has no choice at times....therefore when forced, he can communicate quite eloquently. Other kids his age though....not so much. I fear many are so drawn into the world of technology that making actual verbal sentences are almost impossible for them. I have tried on occasion to talk with this new generation and if they can't answer with a yes, no or shrug they are completely out of their element. It is really sad and I can't imagine how trying this all is for Speech and Interpersonal Communication teachers.

As for communicating through the written word....a teacher friend of mine said that she feels like pulling her hair out at times. She will actually have students turn in papers with abbreviations such as lol on them and be full of abbreviated sentences. She basically believes that all of this technology is actually dumbing down and stunting the intellectual growth of kids where it counts.....COMMUNICATION! If you can't communicate properly then how do you apply for jobs, professionally contact others through business or function in society? I know on fb sometimes I will see even young adults make a post and it is nearly unreadable as the grammar is all but non-existent and it is full of abbreviations and four letter words (and that is another subject you don't even want to get me started on.) I just cringe when I see this. And if they post like this....can you even imagine them trying to write a letter?

Yeah....I know! Letter writing was thrown out in the 90's with roladexes and big hair and I find this truly sad....because I really liked all three of those things.  As a kid....I honed my writing skills on letter writing. I also got quite a bit of practice at school writing notes. Yes....I got caught on numerous occasions, but you know what??? When the teacher inevitably read my note allowed to bring on the desired humiliation factor of getting caught......he/she could read every sentence perfectly. Today I doubt a teacher would even try. It would likely cause them more embarrassment trying to read what passes for the English language now a days than it would the offender.

I know that social media along with technology in general has its place in today's world and I know that there are even benefits to fb and twitter. That being said though....after my hiatus from fb and technology in general, I have to say that I really don't miss it that much. I have enjoyed my conversations on the phone with friends. I quite like cornering Z and making him actually converse with me....and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the look on Dr. D.O.'s face as I verbally punched the cockiness right out of him. It just goes to show that sometimes the old ways still have their place and who knows....they might even find their way back into main stream society. Well a girl can dream can't she?


MarniJ said...

I know exactly what you are talking about. Although I am not, never really have been, much of a phone talker I do enjoy a conversation every now and then.
Your blog reminded me of watching my daughter have a fight with her boyfriend....this "fight" went on for 3 hours.....might I say that the whole 3 hours was fighting by TEXT! Yep....I asked her why didnt she just call him and her response was "Mom, I dont want to TALK to him!!!" I just sighed. Crazy!!!!!
And I will also say that with neither of my children living at home anymore I had to learn to text because Most of the time that is the only way that they will/can communicate with me at the time.
Oh...and might I add.....I am happy I was one of those friends that you communicated with. Great conversation!!!!!! And way to go on that DR!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

An excellent blog. You hit the nail on the head. I gave facebook up a while back as I couldn't stand seeing the way people post. It is nice to know that I am not alone in my frustration.

Anonymous said...

These young communicators that you speak of are also tomorrows leaders. Can you imagine these people trying to make a speech or sending out a business letter? It is scary. Your teacher friend is right. It is a dumbing down of this generation.

Amijo said...

You actually get your child to converse with you? In sentences and everything? You have to share your secret. Mine can text hours on end but try to get her to tell me about her day and "fine" is the only word I ever hear. Maybe you should write a blog on communicating with your child.