We live in a technological world which we are always communicating. But are we really communicating or are we just connected? At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. Last night while watching TV I looked around and saw that everyone was either texting on their iPhone or playing Words With Friends on their iPads and I’m sure that my household isn’t that much different than anyone elses.
In the workplace everyone is texting during meetings where attendees pay attention to only what interests them, then spend the rest of the meeting eyes down carefully crafting an e-mail or text to someone else, and sometimes that someone else is sitting right across the table from us.
We live 0n Facebook. Teenagers today believe that texting and maintaining eye contact with someone is communication. It’s not.
We’ve got to the point that in my home texting is not allowed at the dinner table and guess what? They’re finding that they can exist without their thumbs furiously typing messages to their friends.
I’ve told just about anyone that I know to not text me, e-mail is fine but I don’t want to have to answer to text messages. Call me old fashion, that’s just the way I am. If someone does text me I will not answer it. Period, unless it’s an emergency with my boys. We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being alone together. Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another without actually being with them. We have gotten used to the idea of being a party of one. We live in our own bubble, connected to keyboards and touch screens safely ensconced in our safe little world of connection.
In today’s workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones. Watch as employees lay out their plethora of laptops, iPods, iPads and multiple phones. And then they put their earphones on.
In our bubble people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people; carefully kept at an arm’s length. We keep others at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right. Relationships aren’t easy, they require a lot of effort, sometimes too much effort. We have learned to clean them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference. We are tempted to think that our online connection adds up to a real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn all of these have their places But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.
Are we shortchanging ourselves by not learning to create relationships complete with communication?
I think so.