BOOMER TALK: Virtual communication

Smart phones allow people to connect and interact, pretty much non-stop, about everything and anything

They live in the same house and all members of the family have their own personal phone, a smart phone.  Smart phones allow people to connect and interact, pretty much non-stop, about everything and anything.  I know of 6 and 7 year olds who have their own smart phone (biting tongue).

Studies have shown that children who spend a lot of time on smart phones have a harder time identifying emotion than those who don’t.

We have come a long way from Alexander Graham Bell’s invention in 1876.   Wouldn’t he just be gob-smacked? I remember picking up the phone as a child and having someone at the other end of the line, called an operator – say “number please?” (I lived in the northern wilds of B.C. – it’s nothing to do with my age)

You’d give them the number and they would connect you and then half (or more) of your community would get to listen in to your conversation on a ‘party line’.

Not long after that, we had dial phones and private lines – so we could discuss private things in private. Now, your phone is a portable internet resource and it’s not so private anymore.

From chatting on the phone in the dairy aisle at the local grocery store about what type of cheese to buy, to walking down the street seemingly talking to ourselves (for those who have the ear thingys, a.k.a.  blue tooth) to phoning the person who lives in your own house – (when you both are in the house)  it might appear that we talk non-stop about things that might be considered superficial.

Someone walked by me at a local grocery the other day and said “How are you today?” Not realizing they were using blue tooth, I replied with a smile “fine thanks” and then got an odd look. I giggled. He didn’t. Sigh.

You can look up information by accessing the internet on your phone, you can keep track of your appointments on your phone and you can send text messages.

Ah yes, you can text.

You can have arguments via text (and you do). You can express undying love via text (yep – you do this too). You can break up with someone via text (backbone… where art thou?). You could even propose marriage via text (please – say no – this could be a ‘hint’ of intimacy issues). You can say rude and disrespectful things via text. There is a sense of near anonymity when texting.

Texting has no emotion. Despite the emoticons that you can attach – there is no face to look at, respond to, care about, and no eyes to connect with.

It is ironic that in this era of instant communication, our conversations with one another have become robotic.

So, virtual communication is difficult, masking the emotion we may feel. While it was originally efficient in the workplace, we have lost our personal ‘voice’ along the way. Words are very powerful and their meaning can have a beautiful rhythmic energy.

But the world of texting has created word short cuts, so this means that we are using less words to express ourselves and as a result our text communication can come across as being sharp and uncaring.

So, added to the lack of facial expression and voice intonation is a general lack of softened feeling when we text (or e-mail).

It is worrisome, as I believe it is a form of avoidance of social interaction.

Much easier to type words into a small machine and send them off, as opposed to talking face to face to another person or even voice to voice on the phone. It allows us to avoid the personal responsibility of our communication with others and it can isolate us.

There is a time and a place for cells, texting, email, etc. But check in with yourself and observe your family. Is your communication virtual or real? You will feel the difference.

Carole Fawcett is a counsellor, clinical hypnotherapist and freelance writer


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