August 16, 2011

Irony of Modern "Communication"

I've had this thought rummaging around in my head for a few years now, so I've finally decided to do a blog post about it to see if I can make it go away. I have my doubts writing about it will relieve my stress, but here I go anyway.

Think about the evolution of communication over the past few hundred years. It used to take months of perilous travel across the ocean to send a letter to distant continents. Even upon dry land, communication was slow and dangerous. The Pony Express opened in the United States in 1860. It was a connecting chain of stations where men carried messages across the country via horseback. It took only 10 days to carry a message 1,900 miles, but it was far from safe for the couriers. Frequent attacks from outlaws and indians plagued the horse stations and riders.

Communication used to take a long time, often at great sacrifices.

Now think of today. Nearly everyone is carrying a cell phone. It is possible to communicate almost anywhere in the world in a manner of minutes through email. No more telegrams, no more Morse Code, no more men sacrificing their lives so that you can say hi to your grandma.

You would think that so much technology at our fingertips should make communication easier, but such is not the case. In fact, I believe communication is FAR worse now than it was even 20 years ago. As with everything else in life, people have become so accustomed to their conveniences that they have forgotten their manners.

Let me pose a fictional scenario...
"Hi, sis. I just heard mom is in the hospital. Please call me back and tell what happened." Sister doesn't call back... so what does that mean? Mom's dead? Mom's alive?

Of course the sister should call back and give an update. Even a text would do. I think most of us understand this. I bring it up as an exaggerated example to make a point. Some information we just can't find ourselves. We need a phone call.

No answer is NOT an answer!!!

Why is it that you can send a person 1,000 texts about something like Harry Potter or Twilight and they'll write back immediately, but when you send a text asking for a favor or for information, it takes days to respond (if you get a response at all)? I don't want to hear the "Oh, sorry! I didn't get your message," excuse anymore. I've heard it so many times that I could throw up.

Also, a hex upon caller ID and all its bi-products. It used to be about avoiding marketers, but not anymore. That excuse is WAY outdated. I feel confident saying that 99 out of 100 screened calls are not marketers. Are we really that selfish? Do we realize how egotistical we appear when we refuse to communicate with people?

I could go on and on and on about this, but I believe my point is made. The sad thing is, I see no way of fixing it. However, to those who feel the same way as I do, rest assured that all communication to me is answered at my earliest opportunity. I refuse to give in.


Tyler N said...

I only ignore your calls if I am doing something important.

angababe said...

What?! Mom's in the hospital?

Wesley Warren said...

Isn't responding to every communication right away sort of perpetuating the problem?

The problem isn't so much the proliferation of instant communication channels - cell phone, text message, Facebook, e-mail, etc. - but the stigma that since communication is so instant, our replies must be as instantaneous. This is why email and even to some extent text messaging are still favorite forms of communication for me, versus calling someone on the phone.

With email you can respond at your own pace; waiting a full day for a response to most messages I send seems to be perfectly acceptable, and many times longer than a day is just fine, too. I view text messaging as a way to tell someone, "Hey, I have something to tell you or to discuss, but I don't want to assume that you're available to talk on the phone or even reply right this second, so I'm just throwing you a line and you can respond when it's convenient."

I regularly screen my phone calls. Just because I carry my cell phone on me all the time, it doesn't mean I should be obligated to answer every call or even every text message. Sometimes I reply right away. Sometimes it's the next day. Sometimes not at all (at least by phone). I see no social obligation to do so.

I don't think it's accurate to say that communication today is far worse than it has ever been. I think that relative to the speed with which we areable to communicate our response times are longer, but this isn't a matter of people getting complacent or apathetic, it's a matter of technology forcing us to be constantly plugged in to one another. It's a logical fallacy to place the social imperative upon people to efficiently respond to every text message or phone call that comes their way. At best that kind of expectation is a passive aggressive way of imposing one's timetable upon someone else, and at worst it shows a complete lack of respect or even recognition of someone's privacy and time.

Terron James said...

I understand your perspective, Wes, and in some ways agree with you. I never said that I expect an immediate response. My wife feels strongly that just because she has a cell phone, it doesn't mean she has to be at everyone's beck and call.

I also agree with the recipient's ability to control response times, so that also is not my complaint. My frustration is with people who think it's not rude to completely ignore and not respond at all.

I realize that many people will disagree with my perspective. It's obvious in how communication works nowadays.

Food for thought. Before I was laid off this summer, I worked for an engineering firm for 5 years, doing right of way design for UDOT. I'm not one to brag, but I had a very good reputation at UDOT. They loved working with me, which is why I made it through a downsizing of 80% of our staff before we completely ran out of UDOT work. I didn't work harder than anyone else, but there was one thing I did that trumped most other people. When someone called me, I answered. When I received an email, I immediately responded.

Although it isn't necessary, there is something to be said for quick communication, especially in the workplace. Even though most of the world likes to ignore and screen phone calls, most of us also have a VERY strong appreciation for quick and efficient responses.

Daniel said...

I am of complete agreement.
It seems that the only times I get a call is when Im at work, and from someone who I dont work with, so I cant answer the phone, I do, however, try and call the person back when I can