Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Face to Face Communication in a World of Technology

Yesterday I was playing around on the Internet, like every other day in my life.  I read this great article by Jonathan Safran Foer, he's one of my favorite authors even if his middle name always makes me think of yellow rice (it's Safran not Saffron, but my brain just cannot tell the difference apparently!). 

In the article, How Not to Be Alone, Foer writes about sitting in the park playing on his phone.  He was people watching, but also mindlessly playing with his technology the way we all do.  He sees a young girl, and she is crying.  She is on the phone with her mother, and she keeps saying, "I know, Mama."  Foer wonders, "Do I do the hard thing and break away from my phone and try to comfort her?  This might make her uncomfortable and me uncomfortable, but it is the human thing to do.  Or do I just hide behind my technology and pretend there's not a young girl crying over there?"

Foer makes the point that technology was invented to make us communicate MORE.  Telephones were invented so people could call other people far away.  At some point, however, people began liking the simplicity of the telephone and would rather call then sit face to face, rather leave a message than actually talk to someone, rather text than actually phone.  The communication style became more and more simplistic: taking away tone of voice in the end.

Foer expounds with this acceptance of a "diminished substitute" as the primary communication in our life, over time we'll become diminished substitutes too, capable of feeling little empathy for others, incapable of offering sympathy, as in the case above.

I am one of the biggest culprits of technology overuse.  I can't stand it when someone doesn't know how to use computers.  When someone doesn't have a smartphone, I wonder if they're stuck in the rotary phone age.  I simply don't seem to understand that some people don't NEED WANT these things in their lives. 

I too rely on my phone.  I have it with me almost always.  I check it incessantly sometimes, for what?  The next text that says, "What's up?"  The next Facebook post of somebody's smiling kid (yes, I do love to look at Facebook posts of smiling kids!).  While my phone keeps me "close" to people who are not in my immediate family, it also diverts my attention away from my family.  With a computer screen always open or a phone to always look at, my kids get less and less of my attention, and they begin to think it's acceptable to communicate that way.  Hubby jokes when I misplace my phone, "Oh Lauren.  I'm sorry you lost the love of your life!"  It's funny, but not funny ha ha, more like funny in a sad way. 

Last night, Hubby and I took the kids out to Chappy's for dinner.  I purposely left my phone at home.  You know what?  I felt liberated.  I didn't care if I missed a call.  I didn't care if I missed the next Facebook post.  Whoever was going to text me would have to wait.  I was spending quality time with my kids, without the distractions, giving them all of me instead of only part of me.  It felt wonderful, and I'm sure they felt the glow of undivided attention, even if they still acted like little monkeys!

Technology does have a time and a place, but face to face communication is what makes us human: reading body language, listening for tone, and having someone's full undivided attention is a gift we can give to each other.  In regards to technology use: Limit it, use it for its purpose, but don't forget you're human and your job is to be empathetic of other people and raise your children to be the same way so they can become effective adult communicators, instead of mindless phone texters, TV-watchers, video game players who are incapable of feeling anything for their fellow human companions.

1 comment:

  1. I like this! My husband is good at putting his phone down. He's not on facebook at all (gasp!). I am trying to get better at putting it down and turning it off when I am with my family. I don't want my memories of these years to be lessened because of my time on my phone or iPad. However, I can't walk away from my internet connections completely because I love the way I am connected to people in distant places who I probably wouldn't have in my life otherwise.


Submit ExpressSubmit Express - SEO Services