Editorial: A Lost Art

spock uhura star trek

How well do you know your friends? If you go shopping, can you pick out exactly what they’ll buy? Can you order them lunch without asking what they want? Can you tell just from their face if they have a secret or are angry about something?

How many people, if any, do you know that well?

We live in an age when it’s really easy to communicate, but we don’t do it. Instead of calling a friend or sending a card in the mail, we check their Facebook status (at the same time we check the status of our 150 other friends and relatives). It’s cold, impersonal, and takes five seconds. We don’t have to answer them if we don’t want to, just hit “like” and we’re done! Rather than take them out to lunch on their birthday, we tweet them our “Happy Birthday!” and go on about our “busy” lives.

But does this make us happy or are we left feeling alone and unfulfilled? If it’s not satisfying when someone tells us “Happy Birthday!” in a tweet instead of a phone call or in person, why do we do it to each other and assume it’s okay?

Sit down in a public place and watch people. You’ll find them on their phone, even if another person is sitting next to them. Waiting in line, you can start up a conversation or meet someone new, but not when you’re on your phone!

Recent studies say people today are even more isolated and depressed than ten years ago, particularly teenagers. Is it because our ability to communicate is falling by the wayside? We’re in the habit of talking at one another, not to each other. A Facebook status update isn’t for a particular someone, it’s to let everyone know, at one time, what you’re doing. That’s fine if you need to get out news fast to a lot of people, but let’s face it, most of the time that isn’t the case. Being “one of the crowd” when getting news stinks. What’s better? Hearing good news with two hundred other people, or having someone meet you for coffee and burst out with, “I got a job! … I’m going to Hawaii! … or I’m getting married!”?

The internet used to be a means of communicating globally but with this new rash of “self-syndrome” (giving us ways to talk at people) it’s no longer a way to invite discussion. Blogs go unanswered, ideas are never debated, and no one gets feedback because we no longer know how to carry on a conversation, or respond in more than 40 words (the twitter limit).

Our society is starving for meaningful relationships, for connections, for conversation, but unless the people looking find others willing to actually communicate rather than talk at them, after awhile the “seekers” give up.

And then no one is talking to anyone anymore.

12 thoughts on “Editorial: A Lost Art

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  1. Please let me know if you get my e-mail(s). I’ve already sent my article to you twice, but you’ve obviously not received it. I sent it to you again (just now) with my aol account, and with my yahoo account, but if you don’t get either e-mail, let me know and I’ll just copy and paste the article into a comment here. I’ll be watching for your confirmation, and I’m really sorry this has happened. I actually submitted the article early for once, and I hate that this is inconveniencing you.

      1. Wow, that’s really sucky. I just sent it to that e-mail address. Let me know if you get it. If you do, I’ll send future submissions that way.

  2. I agree with you on communication through internet/devices often leading to misunderstandings.
    I’ve never used Facebook or Twitter, actually, but I’m worried one day I’ll have to join the fad, lol. It just sounds too time consuming – checking if people are talking to me or not all the time. I see so many of my co-workers constantly sneaking looks at their phones during their job. And people on cell phones in restaurants. It’s kinda sad.

    1. I suspect given the greatly diminishing popularity of Facebook (its stock has plummeted since usage has gone way down in the last couple of years) you won’t ever be “forced” to become a part of it. And Twitter is just… really annoying sometimes. I barely use it, just to tweet blog posts or updates to my website.

  3. The scary thing is I know of quite a few people who “talk at” others all the time, even in person 😛

    What strikes me as odd, is people who have quite a lot of extended family within easy driving distance, but still leave them a LOT of comments on facebook. I get that some of facebook’s features are useful, in terms of reminders of upcoming occasions (when is that second cousin’s birthday again?), or if you want to skim a person’s “likes” to get clues as to what they might like as a gift. But I think that these would primarily apply to people you don’t know well. When people use facebook, twitter and other sites as the primary way to communicate with siblings, parents or grandparents–I just find it really weird. Aren’t these people you see every day? Or that you could call on the phone?

    As others mention, I don’t really get people who constantly check their phones, unless you’re one of those emergency responders, or a high-ranking CEO or politician–is your life really that busy? What could be so important? In fact, I dislike taking out my cell in busy public places, because I’d be afraid of it getting knocked from my hand and smashed, or of someone spilling their drink on it. Along with this, several times I have had to chase after women waving a cell phone crying “Wait–wait, did you leave this behind?”

    I think there are other factors that make this even worse. While tumblr is good for art and photos, holding any sort of “conversation” as many have pointed out, is extremely difficult, due to lack of a commenting feature.

    How many people, if any, do you know that well?

    This sentence really chilled me actually, because on a more serious note, I read once that we don’t really know people as well as we think we do. How many people could one trust with one’s life?

    So…when do we get the in-depth Star Trek review? 😉

    1. I suspect the better you know someone, the easier it is to communicate with them — so those who have closer family and friends see more of them, and feel more comfortable gabbing with/at them on social networking websites such as Facebook. Or maybe it’s so they don’t HAVE to see that person in person?

      Out and about, I do check the email on my phone — but only because when I am out and about, it involves a lot of driving and down-time in which there’s nothing to say. (I’ve also noticed that the days I stay home, nothing happens… and the days I leave, an argument / discussion / comment war breaks out somewhere on my blog — when I can’t answer any of it until I get home. Heh.)

      Tumblr is awesome for photo-sharing, but it does worry me that it’s the new “thing” because as you pointed out, it’s even less interactive than Facebook or Twitter is! You’re not actually talking to anyone unless you use the private message feature, and that’s just cumbersome and doesn’t lend itself to relationships (in my mind).

      Honestly, the only people I know “that well” are my parents. I could probably order for them at a restaurant and get them just what they wanted. Most of my friends? Nope, I don’t hang out with them enough to pick up on that sort of thing.

      Um… well, which article do you want first — the one about the villain being a perfect representation of an INTJ psychopath, or the one about the Christian symbolism? 😉

  4. Gosh this was a good post! When I go out to dinner, I marvel at how many people are checked out with those around them….we definitely cannot communicate. I do love Facebook, as it enables me to see glimpses into lives of my faraway friends. But I still have to hear their voices…..or write them cards. Relying on just technology alone is boring

    1. It’s not only boring, it’s impersonal and it lends itself really well to misunderstandings! No one can tell if you’re being sarcastic or serious from the “tone” of a comment, so often if that’s your only means of communication, the wrong messages can be passed around. I’ve had so many arguments / angst in online relationships that would never have happened in person — both because the impersonality of internet conversation makes us ruder than we might be face to face, and because it’s easier to take things the wrong way online.

  5. FABULOUS post, Charity.

    I see the merit in both sides of the argue. When it comes to sending out birthday greetings, I “know” several people whom I don’t talk with on the phone because that isn’t our relationship but I don’t think of them any less a “friend.” That being said, to send them a birthday shout-out or just a cherry hello, I rely on the Internet (Twitter, Blogger, etc.). In many ways, we’ve “forgotten” to remember birthdays or just people in general. For that reason, I am grateful the Internet offers an alternative. Sometimes, a person *needs* to hear a “hello, how are you today?”

    On the other side, the Internet has taken away the face-to-face conversation. Then as you bring up so many teens (people) fall into a depression because they get into the wrong circle and secondly, their parent’s don’t have a CLUE what their children are doing.

    There needs to be a balance. I don’t think the Internet/social media is all bad, it’s in how we use it that really matters.

    1. The internet is great for last minute things but I think in a real relationship that is actually meaningful, a little foresight is expected and needed. The more time someone takes out of their day to communicate with me, the more appreciative I am of them and the more I feel loved. The internet is so instant, it’s easy to communicate but … in our fast-tracking of relationships, we miss out on so much.

      (I also suspect this is why young people are no longer socializing and getting married as much as they used to — who wants to go out and meet people and work at it, when you can sit at home and surf the internet with other geeks?)

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