Communication Matters

November 2, 2018

Dear Michael,

Michael, I fear I’m a relic with my insistence on sending greeting cards to loved ones; clicking buttons on my telephone to speak to those I care about; and scheduling face-to-face contact with friends to chat about our lives and problems. Although, now that I have written that statement it causes me to pause, and I wonder: is it true?

In all honesty, I find myself spending a great deal of time in isolation with my fingers tightly clinging to my mobile while sending text messages to friends. The message is a two second commitment from me when pressed for time and when I’m thinking of a friend, that shows a certain level of concern. The upside of this? Minimal effort on my part.

I know this to be true, but it doesn’t stop me. I wonder now what else I have missed, or who have I missed, when my head was bowed clicking at that miniscule keyboard sending a message to a friend or family member. Did I pass a homeless person and not see him? Or failed to help a person who dropped their groceries?  Did I make a cashier feel unimportant when I didn’t say, “Hello”, “Please”, or “Thank You” when I ordered my coffee?  Nothing speaks volumes about how much you care about one another, when you don’t even see the person standing in front of you.

With Facebook and text messages it’s easy not to see things. After all, words are a wonderful means of communication, but I would argue, images are more powerful.  You tell me. If I use this symbol 😦 does it mean the same as witnessing a person who is crying on the streets? Or worse yet, someone who isn’t crying, but you know there’s something wrong because their face has been washed clean of all emotions? The face of someone who wants to give up.

Technology today was meant to bind us tighter together.  Relationships were tested when prairies, mountains, rivers, and oceans separated people and required months of travel to visit one another. Now, we can send an email in North America and within a few seconds (as long your server isn’t down) it will be received in Europe. Face-to-face contact is also possible through computers thanks to Skype, where family memories can speak and see one another on the opposite side of the world.

No more reason to send a card. No more reason to travel to visit family and friends. No more reason to face one another. 

It’s different though to receive a text message from someone versus seeing them in person. I can tell you this: if I send a message to a friend and ask, how are you? it’s easy for them to click a couple of buttons and type, GREAT!  I would believe them. But if we meet for coffee and I ask the same question, and they say the same thing with water-filled eyes, or wear a face that’s void of any sign of life; their body language indicates to me something is wrong. From there, I’m more likely to enquire about family, friends, or work in order to flush out what is happening in their lives. It also forces me to be more committed and pay closer attention to my friend to ensure he or she is really doing alright.

I love the poem by John Donne, ‘No man is an island: a poem about interconnection and dependency on one another. We should be connected and care about family, friends, colleagues and strangers. Technology helps us to communicate with one another more easily whether we are only a few miles apart or thousands of miles. But this should not be a substitution for oral conversations and face-to-face interactions that require a larger time commitment because by doing so, it strips us of our humanity towards each other.

Perhaps it’s time for me to drop the phone more frequently and face the person in front of me. It’s time to be a part of all the life that surrounds me.

“;any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”

~’No man is an island’

John Donne

Fondly,

Catherine

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