Sunday, July 14

Less Facebook, more face to face

I had a question for our accountant, a long time friend who has been doing our tax return for more than twenty years.  As if on automatic pilot I began to write him an email.

Then it dawned on me.  I know this man.  I have a relationship with him.  What is keeping me from calling him personally and saying hello and exchanging pleasantries?  I admonished myself.  Yes, there was a business component to the call but also years of sharing information about family and mutual friends.  An email was hardly the medium to acknowledge our friendship and catch up with the type of information families typically exchange.

It takes the spoken word to deepen our understanding of others and give personal strength to relationships.  When I was growing up as a kid we didn’t have cell phones and satellites and Global Positioning Systems and yet I knew everybody in town and everybody knew me.  I never felt isolated or stranded high and dry, and I’m pretty certain my mother always knew where I went after school.

There was an article in The New Yorker about a class NYU gives to incoming freshmen on “How to Talk to Each Other in Person.”  It seems that young people have become so accustomed to meeting through Facebook and communicating by using emails, tweets and texting, they no longer know how to connect face to face.

Are we forgetting the art of personal and group interaction?  When I watch a distracted rider on the subway idly thumbing a text message to someone in cyberspace it’s clear to me the gadgetry matters more than the words being said.  Our unremitting access to each other reduces the importance of our communication; conversation becomes babble; sharing everything turns into sharing drivel.

Technology links people together but disconnects the essential elements of a relationship.  Baud speed and multiple access are not replacements for intimacy and thoughtfulness.  Pedestrians talking on their cell phones as they stroll down Michigan Avenue are trivializing the essential importance of time and distance.

It’s disturbing!  I can still remember my mother talking on the wall mounted Bell telephone to her sister in New Jersey, exclaiming in an awed voice, “Fifty miles from the Bronx and I can hear her like she was in the same room.  Imagine that!”

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