Sunday, June 2, 2013

Electronic Text Communication: One Of The Best and Worst Things To Happen To Society Ever.

From email to internet chatting in all forms to Facebook walls and SMS messaging, text communication is both amazing and amazingly evil. I am not intending this to extend to authors of any type, including bloggers. I  expect people to comment on my blog or my Facebook status; that may or may not be considered "conversation".

There are many people out there whose lives have been forever changed for the better by text-based communication. It has given many people, especially people with various disabilities, a chance to communicate their thoughts to the world and to form friendships that otherwise would not get off the ground. It lets business take place in very clear terms. Friendships and relationships can be formed where distance would otherwise be a factor; distance can still be a huge factor, but it doesn't have to be a deal breaker. Last but maybe least, it allows us to leave a message for friends and family and let them get back to us when it becomes convenient.

Convenience is the real double-edged sword here. What could be wrong with convenience? It's too convenient. It's so easy for people who don't think of you 364 days a year to leave a halfhearted "happy birthday" message via Facebook. It's easy to send a text message saying "we need to catch up" and then forget you even sent that message. Emails get lost in unbelievable amounts of spam. Even outside the world of text, I am inconvenient...for everyone. I don't drive, and it happens all too often that something comes up and I hear "well, I would come get you, but......" and then after that I'll get texts about what I missed. If I miss something simply because I can't make it, don't text me or even call me about how I "should've been there". If you really want me there, show it beforehand. 

A vast majority of the time, I don't like being the center of attention. The exception to this is a one-on-one hangout. If I have someone sitting in front of me, texts can wait. Since I often have to plan things days or weeks ahead, it means a lot to me when I do get out. Even at this point, "center of attention" goes too far, but if I'm sitting in the same room looking at you, give me the time. Don't sit there showing me you'd rather exchange impersonal and (literally) abbreviated bullshit with someone else 1 to 160 characters at a time. Speaking of abbreviated bullshit, if you think something is funny, laugh, don't just sit there with a straight face and say "LOL". If you have to step away, tell me "I'll be right back"; don't just say "BRB", and if say you'll "be right back", MEAN IT. I know things come up, some calls and texts need to be answered, but remember, I took the time and made the arrangements to come see you, that person who just texted you only took the time to punch a few keys. If you want to reply to them something like "with a friend, talk to you later"...fine, but then put the phone back in your pocket. In this situation, the recipient of that text is very likely to respond with just "K". People are even getting too lazy to type "OK", so they cut it in half. If one thing points to how impersonal texting is more than any other factor, this is it. 

The ability to mass-text is evil too. Getting a bunch of friends together can make for good times, but it can also make for the driest interaction ever. "The more the merrier" is a nice thought, but if you've ever been "partying" in a room or club that's so crowded you can't move, with so much noise you can't even think, you know there is a limit to it. There's a time to gather everyone and go to the club, there are times to just gather a handful of friends and have fun, and there are times when one-on-one is best. Even when you text just one person, it's more like two-on-two because there are machines in the middle taking at least some of the personality out of the message. This is true for calling, too, but the personality-killing machine is much less powerful when you use your voice. Text-based communication can start a friendship or a relationship, but when other options are available, I don't understand how anyone is perfectly happy reading computer-generated friendship all the time. Friendships are better measured in time you spend talking, or time you spend together, than the number of characters you typed. "Our friendship is gonna be a short one lol"....."K".