Saturday, March 24, 2012

how my iPhone makes me feel more disconnected

I now have the internet at my fingertips 24/7. My adorable little phone (aptly named "Spankie") has ushered me into the 21st century, and now I know how the other 99% live. I can text, tweet, post to facebook, upload photos, and otherwise reach out and touch someone at any hour of the day (except while I'm in the subway).

And I haven't felt this disconnected since I can't remember when.

Texting is a slippery slope for me. It's a great way to passively reach out and drop a funny line or thought on someone's radar without putting too much energy or thought into it. I can share a link, tell a joke, or otherwise flit in and out of a friend's life in a matter of seconds. I sometimes have full conversations with someone over text, and those conversations are well thought out, carefully constructed, and usually ridiculously funny.

I'm sure nobody would be surprised to hear that texting is on the rise. According to a 2010 Nielsen study, every age group is texting more than they were the previous year, even those of us in the 35-44 category:
And the trend is only going to go up, so I feel like a bit of a Luddite even having an issue with this. But I do.

I don't really feel like I'm getting to know the people on the other end of my text-line any better as I text with them. There's so much less revealed. People have time to think, react, and respond before sharing their impulses or insights. There is also much less clarity in texting. The tone of voice -- so crucial in spoken communication -- is completely gone, and the context -- which usually helps to set the tone of an email -- is also missing. So all I get in a text is the nugget, the core of the message. Which is fine if that message is "I'm running late," or "Just wanted to say hi."

But what if that message is something more complicated, like "I can't make it tonight" or "what's the deal with [insert any topic]?" The brevity and lack of intonation make it difficult for me to see where the other person is coming from, and makes it so much easier to throw my own interpretations onto the message. (Which is never a good thing.)

I know I need to get used to it, but for me, true connection comes voice to voice, if not face to face. I want to hear the hemming and hawing. I want to know when there's a sigh. Emotions, mistakes, and non-verbal noises help me feel more human and more connected to others. I've thought about instituting a no texting policy for a month, just to see how it goes, but I think I've gotten so used to texting that I'd miss it if it was gone. The secret is to blend both, and to set boundaries around how much I'm willing to text. But how much is too much? And how much is not enough?

When I figure out what that balance is, I'll let you know. Or if you want to find out, you can always call me.

1 comment:

  1. I love this, Kate. I don't feel connected to others by the few texts I've sent in my life, as I would much rather have a real conversation where we share what we're saying in the moment.