I am becoming more and more convinced that, as a society, we are in a downward spiral when it comes to communication. Don’t get me wrong…we have more ways to communicate with one another than we did 5, 10, 15 years ago. Communication has sped up and has allowed us to get more immediate feedback. And communication has become more efficient. But I believe one-on-one; interpersonal communication is changing rapidly…and in a lot of cases for the worse. Allow me to give you a couple examples from my own life:
(1) I was checking my Facebook account one day when I received a message from a parishioner here in town. She had a question for me. So naturally I wrote back, answering her question. A minute or so later she responded to my response and then I did so likewise. This went on for a couple messages before I realized something. This person was just across town…either go over there or call her, I thought…so I called her. And you know something, we were able to take care of what we needed much faster and more efficiently than writing impersonal messages back and forth.
(2) Two weeks ago I was getting ready to head back to Sioux Falls to attend the LifeLight Music Festival. Connie was already over there. As I pulled out of my driveway, Connie sent me a text message asking me a question. I stopped the car and replied to her. She sent me another one and I replied again. After my second message I realized (once again) “why don’t I just call her?”…so I did. We were able to take care of what we needed much faster and more efficiently than writing impersonal text messages back and forth.
(3) I recently heard a news report on TV that said that more and more teachers are discovering the negative impact that text messaging is having on written communication in class. They are seeing papers using text message shorthand…because that’s how more and more teenagers are communicating…and it’s carrying over into the real world. Are we in a catch-22 situation? Do we need teach young people text message shorthand (like we actually need to teach this) so they can get by in the world? Do we allow them to use this shorthand in class? Does stopping this put teens at a disadvantage out in the world? These seem like strange questions to ask, but I can’t help but to wonder. What does this say about our future?
Now…I do believe that Facebook and text messaging and email and the like do serve a good purpose. If I am in a class or a meeting, sending a quick text message to my wife is an easier way to communicate without disrupting anything. But if all possible…I want to make the phone call.
What would Jesus do today? Would he have a Blackberry or some kind of smartphone so he could communicate with teens today? Would Jesus have an email account? It seems to me that Jesus would value face-to-face; voice-to-voice communication. There is just something more personal about it.
With all the advances in technology, relationship building through communication is taking a huge hit and spiraling downward. But who am I to talk…I am sitting behind a computer writing this. I just returned a Facebook message from a friend 4 blocks away and my smartphone is lying 6 inches from me just waiting to be used. I guess I, too, have a long ways to go.