I thought this article was interesting and something I think I have written in the past. Well almost. I don’t agree with the bit about not having conversations online and her ideas about “slow” conversation in person vs online mediums. Obviously she hasn’t spent a lot of time using IMs.
FACE-TO-FACE conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience. When we communicate on our digital devices, we learn different habits. As we ramp up the volume and velocity of online connections, we start to expect faster answers. To get these, we ask one another simpler questions; we dumb down our communications, even on the most important matters. It is as though we have all put ourselves on cable news. Shakespeare might have said, “We are consum’d with that which we were nourish’d by.”
And we use conversation with others to learn to converse with ourselves. So our flight from conversation can mean diminished chances to learn skills of self-reflection. These days, social media continually asks us what’s “on our mind,” but we have little motivation to say something truly self-reflective. Self-reflection in conversation requires trust. It’s hard to do anything with 3,000 Facebook friends except connect.
I think in person conversations can be frustrating. When was the last time you sat around a table with, say, 5 friends and you discussed an issue politely, taking turns, and everyone getting to say everything they want to without interruption? I’m not saying it ISN’T done, but that generally speaking that’s not how it goes down. And sometimes reading someone’s response you get much more of a fuller answer than what they might say out loud to your face.
Now that said, people certainly could be better at in person conversations. I love people who can pretty much talk about anything. They are either well read, good actors, or know how to ask questions. Or all of the above. Conversation is a skill and if I was a teacher, I’d have it as part of my curriculum. How much further in life could we all get if we had excellent interpersonal communication skills? Um, loads further yo.
And as far as connection and trust, I feel that to some degree people connect in a much deeper way since the invention of blogs and Facebook and other media. Sure it contributes to the wham bam mentality of people who suffer slightly from ADHD. But it also creates another layer to a person that you might not ever see in an actual in-person interaction. For example, I don’t talk about comic books in EVERY conversation – though I try my darndest – but it wasn’t until I became FB friends with someone that he and I started trading books and talking about different characters and story lines. Would it have come up in conversation? Probably eventually. But he also lives a bazillion miles away so it would have taken awhile.
My point of course is that for all the things technology does to harm us, it, in the right hands (i.e. mine) will also do great things for us. But at the heart of what the New York Times article is trying to say, I agree that online “socialization” is not a replacement for in person contact. Poking is way more fun in person.
Random communication for the math geeks…