Thursday, January 29, 2009

Communication Breakdown

I got on my soapbox Wednesday. After nearly four hours of volunteering for Project Homeless Connect my concern for the state of our daily interactions with our fellow man kinda peaked.

I am a student of communication. I love learning how people interact - verbally and nonverbally (which can be even more fascinating) - and watching them in those interactions. Something that's been bothering me lately, however, is how technology has elbowed in to these daily interactions under the guise of making life "easier."

Facebook has exploded - I have nearly 200 "friends" - so that we can all become more connected to our friends and family. What I find is of those 200 friends, I only see or talk to 20 of them. I'm become a well-informed worse friend: I talk to you less than I normally would because I have no need to seek the information from you, I can just skim your page, see your new pictures and then go about my self-absorbed life knowing that you just adopted a kitten, are doing an internship in Brazil this summer, broke up with your long-term boyfriend, and had a rough day at work. All without ever having talked to you. Isn't that awesome?!

I have a similar situation with my cell phone. I have a lot of phone numbers in there. Know how many people I call on a weekly basis? Eight. (Sometimes it goes up to ten, but eight is the average.) It's not that I don't care about those other people in my precious address book, but they don't fit nicely into my schedule I've filled with all kinds of activities.

On Wednesday I sat with a stinky child and a man who had just received notice that the owner of the house he had rented for 20+ years had foreclosed and they had to be out next week. I could hear the pain and fear as he explained his disabilities and the knowledge that in a week they were going to be homeless - four of his six children (one of whom is three weeks old), his wife, and himself - if they didn't figure something out quick. There was nothing I could do for this man but listen and when I left I realized that this man was a complete stranger, but I probably had a more meaningful conversation with him than I'd had with anyone in quite awhile. On the way home an old school song played saying, "You never know what your neighbor is going through until you ask."

My question is, when do we say enough is enough, set our cell phones aside, turn off the computer, and start interacting with the people around us and really learn about each other?

1 comment:

Norma said...

All these devices have totally enabled my inability to have casual or meaningful conversations with anyone. I was bad at it to begin with and now I'm worse because I'm able to "communicate" without opening my mouth.

Well worth considering. Good message for sure!