Technology, for many of us, has become as essential as food and water to our modern-day existence. It has contributed positively in many areas of daily life and has created new ways for people to connect. But like any new tool introduced into culture, people have the choice to use it in ways that are productive and helpful, or in ways that are unconscious and premeditated; seeking only to serve their own purposes at the expense of everyone else.
Some of you reading this entry may remember the days of handwritten letters; sending them in the mail or passing them in class. It certainly wasn’t our only form of communication, but rather a compliment to face to face conversations or phone calls. “Handwritten” notes took time to write, not just because it required more hand eye coordination, but also due the effort. It required some thought and deliberation. These days, handwritten notes and snail mail have virtually been replaced by texting and instant messaging. Although both require writing (typing) and reading, their processes and outcomes are often vastly different.
Back in the day (Ah, I sound like my dear late Grandfather J), sitting down to write a handwritten note took some time and effort. We had to find the most appropriate writing utensil and paper. We had to think clearly about what we wanted to say in advance, especially if we didn’t have an eraser or white-out (what an invention that was!). Once we wrote our thoughts and feelings out on the paper, we could take the time to re-read and consider sending it. A trip to the post office required transportation, postage and time. And if it was a note we were passing in class, we were usually quite conscious about what we were recording on paper, due to the lack of privacy involved in the delivery method. Passing it to my friend Laura sitting next to me, whom then passes it to Jenny, whom passes it to Eric (whom by the way, would have been the most likely to violate my privacy J) and then hopefully, passing it to its intended recipient, clearly indicated in fancy BLOCK letters on the outside folds, JEFF. My intention here is not to take you down a trip from my middle school memory lane, but rather to unmistakably distinguish some of the major differences between written communication in the 1900’s J and written communication after Y2K. The differences:
TIME, CONTEMPLATION and EFFORT.
Today, we can shoot out an instant message in record time and in fact, it is often expected that one does so. Messaging carries even more time proficiency with the use (and in my opinion, often OVERUSE) of acronyms: LOL, TTYL, GTG. We have become so obsessed with efficacy, we barely write out words in their entirety anymore. Admittedly, I can’t be the only one that is challenged by acronyms; spending countless minutes trying to figure out what the heck TTYS means. Sometimes I wonder, what is the next form of communication shortcuts, recorded sounds; grunting?
Texting and instant messaging have become mainstream methods of communicating and for some, the primary method. As I eluded to earlier, the problem is not technology itself, but rather the way we use the technology. Impulsivity and reactivity are common traits among our culture today; we want everything NOW and YESTERDAY. If something happens that causes distress, we react to it and take whatever measure necessary to alleviate our discomfort. Sometimes that means typing a very long instant message or sending out a barrage of emotional text messages that are explosive and reactive. The natural pause involved in handwritten notes, needs to be manufactured by the user, in communicating via technology. We also seem to be less conscientious about the content we type. There doesn’t seem to be much concern for how it may be interpreted or whom may read or see our words. Or whom may see the questionable “photos” we may send, besides the person we sent them to. The art of communicating is become less conscious, less clear and less personal.
There used to be a time where people would only express specific words of affection to those that were close and personal, now people are indiscriminately sending heart and kiss emojis to every person in their contact list. Who cares, some say… And perhaps no one does; which could also be a contributing factor to why relationships and communication skills in general, are deteriorating. What’s important to understand, is we need not judge one another on our chosen form of communication, but rather identify what is best for ourselves, individually. The challenge with communicating via technology, especially emotional content, is that doing so can often lead to misunderstandings. Some things get lost in translation and are left to interpretation; not only by the intended reader, but also anyone else that may intentionally or unintentionally see the message. Such as my client, whom inadvertently saw a message on her husband’s phone when checking Amazon, and wondered what 2 hearts, 3 kisses and 1 smiling blushing face meant from his female co-worker. In a day and age where everyone is our “FRIEND,” and we can instantly connect to anyone in the world with an internet connection; technology is changing the way we define words like privacy, personal and special. Personal and professional relationship boundaries are becoming blurred, not necessarily because of technology, but because of how people choose to use it. It would be one thing if these blurred boundaries benefited business and uplifted personal relationships, but they don’t.
It is my hope to bring awareness to this on-going issue and perhaps provoke more conscious thought and reflection about how we communicate using technology. It begins by having clearly defined values and intentions. It’s been said that awareness equals responsibility. And although there is certainly truth in this statement; as once you are aware of the gaping hole in your roof, you can no longer claim unawareness, when the rain comes pouring into the kitchen. Being responsible for awareness, is a choice. Choosing to be responsible is the easy part; the difficulty lies in the practicing it! And unfortunately, there are no shortcuts or LOLs around that!