As I’m writing this blog I am also responding to emails, and in the middle of a conversation… over text message. Everyday a new tool (smart phones, social networking sites, instant messaging apps) pops up that is supposed to help us communicate more, but does it help us communicate better?
Talking vs. Texting:
Who remembers having to text on a number pad? Jeez, what a drag. It took longer to send a five-word-sentence than make a call. Thanks to QWERTY keyboards on our mobile devices that has certainly changed. Texting is a breeze. It’s become so popular and convenient that according to one study more than half of Americans would rather text than talk. I am with the majority on this one, at least for most conversations. But its not necessarily a good thing according to some experts.
Dr. Sherry Turkle, a cultural analyst, studies how technology is shaping our modern relationships. She believes the more we rely on our digital devices to communicate, the lonelier we all really become. “We expect more from technology and less from each other. What once would have seemed like “good service” is now an inconvenience,” said Turkle during a TEDtalk on the subject.
For me it’s the simplicity and brevity of a text that I appreciate. It’s short, quick and to the point. Maybe I’ll use text to schedule actual person to person meetings?
Balance things out?
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ are all Social Networks that help us to keep up with friends, family, and colleagues, virtually at least. Mobile apps of these networks keep us in the loop no matter where we are. It’s instant communication but according to Turkle it’s not the kind of communication we should only be having. Using social media to maintain relationships means we don’t exactly have to call or meet friends to catch up. Essentially although I’m communicating more, I’m having less interpersonal exchanges. Experts say especially Facebook has redefined the meaning of a ‘Friend’ and what we ‘Share’ about our lives.
“It’s not about your friend count, but it’s about the friends you count on,” said Google Chairman Eric Schmidt when discussing FaceBook. In the end isn’t it all about moderation? While it’s perfectly normal and healthy to be on Social Networking sites and interact behind a computer or a smartphone, it’s important to remember these can’t be the only way to maintain relationships.
It’s Not All Bad!
Think about how email changed the workplace. Without it it would be difficult to work remotely several days of the week. Not only does it help my team communicate (since some of us live in different cities) but it keeps track of those communications. I work on several things everyday and being able to go back and look at my email helps me remember what else I need to finish that day. That’s a lot easier than having to remember detailed conversations or needing to call someone back because you forgot a minor detail. It’s especially helpful if you are in a meeting or conference call and you need to communicate with someone outside of that.
There is no doubt that technology will continue to improve in ways we may not even imagine. While it helps us connect better, it may not necessarily help us communicate better. So go make a phone call, or schedule a person-to-person meeting. Sure typing an email, text, tweet or post is a lot easier but an actual conversation can also go a long way.
Do you make it a point to try to have face-to-face or phone conversations with people? Let us know in the comments below.