“Are all these improvements in communication really helping us communicate?”
(Sex and the City, Season 4, Episode 6)
It was a typical afternoon. I was home for spring break a few weeks ago, when I decided to unceremoniously plop myself down on my couch and flip through the TV channels. As I was lazily deciding which show I should purge on, I happened to stop on Sex and the City right when the main protagonist, Carrie, said that quote above.
Right away (or right after the episode was over…) I knew I had to do a little research. When that quote was said, it was only 2001. That was thirteen years ago. When Carrie said that, she was debating whether or not to get an email address. She thought that was “too advanced” for her to handle.
What about today? Today when we can text one another, Face Time each other, Skype, Facebook chat, Tumblr, and so much more? If someone once thought that email was too “high-tech,” then what about right now? Does technology truly help us communicate any better?
In his book, Stop Talking, Start Communicating, Geoffrey Tumlin says that, “A tech-centered view of communication encourages us to expect too much from our devices and too little from each other.” Yes, with all of our gadgets and gizmos we can communicate easier and faster. That’s an obvious thing. But, is it any better?
In a great CNN article, “We never talk any more: The problem with text messaging” Jeffrey Kluger states that, “The telephone call is a dying institution. The number of text messages sent monthly in the U.S. exploded from 14 billion in 2000 to 188 billion in 2010.” People, wherever one goes, are always looking down at their phones, instead of looking up. They are immersed in all of its aspects (mostly texting), and to see a person actually talking on it is a rare site nowadays.
We can easily read a message, a text, an email, but we don’t understand the emotion behind it. One can sincerely believe that a message sounds mean, while the author never intended that at all. Without always understanding a person’s tone, how then do we know what they actually are saying?
An easy counter argument for that could be reading a book. How is one supposed to know what the author’s tone is without asking him or her? Yet, that is usually a simple thing to figure out. We as English majors do that for everything and anything we read. However, that also could be because a book is longer than a text message, and has phrases such as, “he said with a vengeance” throughout. I personally don’t know many people who narrate their own text messages.
But, one cannot overlook the ways it truly has helped us. In a Huffington Post article, Joel Gagne says, “(School) Districts benefit from embracing, rather than shying away from, technology. Districts can utilize various different technological platforms to engage their community and seek their input. By ensuring there are provocative topics and the need of feedback from the community it will ensure things are interesting. Readers like to know you are really interested in what their opinion is. Using technology can help bring your school community together.” Technology also can help loved ones see pictures from a trip via Facebook, rather than having to wait months to meet up in person. It can help people living across the globe talk every single day without much cost. It can get ideas spread so rapidly that in a blink of an eye a revolution of sorts is happening. Years ago this was never possible. And yet, today, it is.
While I myself believe that all of our “improvements” aren’t making us communicate a whole lot better, that doesn’t mean I don’t find it easier. Instead of calling my mom to tell her something, I text her. If I see a new book out that I think my dad would enjoy, I email him, instead of calling him. It is easier, and it is faster, and I use my cellphone and laptop Every. Single. Day.
And, for better or for worse, I don’t plan on stopping.