If the internet and social media are so fast, why does it seem like it takes us longer and longer to communicate?
That conundrum, if you will, struck me some time ago, when I received an email from a friend I’ve known since junior high school. (Guess you can tell how old I might be, right? You don’t hear “junior high” much anymore, it’s been “middle school” for some time.) We’ve stayed in touch off and on over the years, but not regularly. I lived on the opposite side of Colorado, so it wasn’t like we could meet for dinner or drinks whenever we felt like getting together.
But despite the ability to immediately respond to my friend, I did nothing. For days and weeks. No real reason, and I wanted to stay in touch. Just found other things to do, or needed to be done, I guess.
This wasn’t an isolated incident, and from what I can gather from other people, they do the same thing. The same friend who sent me that email often waits a long time before he responds to my last message. Another friend often takes it a step further and just never responds. (Maybe I shouldn’t count her as a friend.) We all have access to text, instant messaging, chat, Skype, video calling and good, old-fashioned phone calls. Those calls can even be made while we’re doing something else. Still we don’t communicate.
Maybe we all have too much going on in our lives these days. Pre-internet days, maybe everyday lives were less cluttered. I’m not saying people back then weren’t busy, I realize they worked long hours. But maybe they had fewer interruptions in the form of phone calls, emails, text messages, etc. So now we all have these devices, software programs, apps and what all that can intrude on our daily chores and tasks. So we let personal communications slide.
It could be that there are just so many more people in the world these days, we’re more preoccupied with what our far-flung family and friends are doing on Facebook, what photos they’re posting, to actually reach out and communicate with others. I don’t know. Like I said, it seems like a conundrum.
And it almost goes without saying that a lack of communication is a big part of the political and racial divides that plague us everywhere. No one seems to take the time to really listen to another because our minds are already made up. We’ve made decisions without considering alternatives that could be brought to our attention by communicating. As a wise Vulcan philosopher and science officer said, “there are always alternatives.”
I know I get busy with my job searching and now my efforts to establish a broad base of freelance writing and editing clients. Those are both full-time jobs by themselves. So I sit in front of this computer screen for hours and hours and adding more time to respond to personal emails and messages sometimes seems like a bother. That shouldn’t be how I look at things. When you think about today’s technology and all the benefits it is supposed to bring us, isn’t more time to do what we want near the top of the list?
I don’t have an answer or solution. It just got me thinking the other day. Maybe we all just need to make a personal commitment to answer that email or text message right away. Get a real conversation going with our friends, family and colleagues. Understand what they’re saying, give it some thought and explain what we’re thinking.
If we did, I’d bet society would benefit.