Failure to Communicate
I often feel that our ability to communicate is falling into the trap of diminishing returns. New forms of communication, at their start, are very pure. They focus on connecting people in a very personal and intimate way. Over time, external pressures on communications providers cause a dilution of the purity. Communication becomes less about sharing a story, experience, or memory, and more about a transaction.
Take email, for example. When AOL was the big kid on the block, you seldom had new email every time that you logged on. Yet, when you did have email, it was something worthwhile. It was a note from a friend or relative sharing something with you. Today, you likely get dozens of emails every single day, most of which you delete sight unseen. Email is now a chore, a bore, and a ball weighing on your productivity.
Social media is trending in the same direction. Platforms come and they go. Some explode in popularity and go out in a great ball of fire. Others, like Facebook, remain, but die a long, slow death. They take precious hours from your life and, as they become more transactional, fall further away from the original goal of connecting people in a real way.
I mentioned to Alison the other day that there will come a point where we stop calling our cell phones a “phone.” Most of our communication isn’t done over voice calls, but rather texts, emails, and apps. I think that if we’re to build authentic human relationships, we need to be more intentional about connecting with one another and move our communications outside of the transactional channels.
Voice calls, video calls, text messages, and letters are the channels in which to foster and develop better, more intentional, relationships. While some may argue that text messaging isn’t real communication, I beg to differ. Text messages are like passing notes in class or the telegraphs of days gone by. They’re non-intrusive (unless the receiver makes them so), short messages passed between two people. We also need to revive personal letters. Letter writing takes time, but it’s a time honored tradition that expresses not just the thoughts and emotions that you wish to convey, but that the person is worth the time you took to author the letter. Voice calls are always great, but seem to be slowly falling out of favor. Connecting with relatives whom you don’t see often can most easily be done using voice calls. Most exciting for me today is video calls. I find it particularly exciting because, having young children, it allows for our relatives to see and interact with Benedict in a real way, and vice versa.
Interpersonal communication should never be transactional; our dignity as human persons deserves something greater. We all desire better communication and connection with one another, and yet few of us make positive steps to improve. Identify those in your life with whom you’d most like to connect with, and take intentional steps to make those connections happen.