Bridging the Divided

Communication Anyone…..?

Communication. We communicate far more than ever in the history of mankind and yet we say little of anything positive. We can thank the advent of texting, emailing and any electronic communication, for that matter, and of course, the almighty social media for our abundance of meaningless, often negative and hateful communication. Collectively, it has made us a negative, isolated, and lonely society. Think I’m wrong?

When was the last time you had a face-to-face heartfelt conversation with anyone in your life? When was the last time you wrote a letter, actually wrote a letter with pen and paper, mailed a letter or greeting card of any kind, picked up the telephone and called family or friends, or sat down for a conversation over dinner or coffee? For many, it has been a while. I call my mom every day, talk with my kids and other family living several states away, and my husband and I talk on the phone a couple of times a day, but other than that I don’t like to phone chat. I have gotten out of the habit. My mom doesn’t understand why my kids’ text rather than call her to check in or send holiday greetings. Why go to a store, pick out a card, purchase a stamp, and mail the card when you can send an e-greeting? Texting allows us the opportunity to ignore messages or wait until a more convenient time to respond. In effect, we are saying the other person is not a priority at the moment; I would bet most of us are not doing anything too earth-shattering delaying responding to another human being.

Losing the art of communication is not a good thing. We as a society have become shallow, negative, and operate from a sound-bite mentality. On any given day social media is full of negativity, and every now and then we see posts about taking a break from the negative vibes, or posts of others. It’s valid and healthy for all of us. Words are powerful, and negative words more than positive words tend to stay with us longer. Because of the lack of face-to-face time, we falsely believe it’s okay to say whatever we want no matter how negative or hurtful; we aren’t looking another in the eyes, not subject to the hurtful expressions when negative words bludgeon without regard for another’s feelings. And, it’s easy to turn our backs and walk away by un-friending, or deleting an account or contact. Oh, sure, there is video-chat, but if we don’t like the way a conversation is going the click of a button ends the call; easy-peasy. End call; delete contact.

Ever sat in a waiting room of any kind and looked around? Everyone and I mean everyone is scrolling through their phones. Even their body language shuts the rest of the world out; legs crossed, hunched over eyes intently focused on whatever drivel happens to be on the phone screen. Even the kids. I watch parents hand over electronic devices to their toddlers, and yet we hear warnings every day to limit our screen time, but do we? We are isolating. I am seeing it on plane flights and in grocery stores regularly. People purposefully walking to their gates or getting situated in their seats in the airport or on the plane with earbuds firmly tucked into their ears listening to who-knows-what. Likewise in grocery stores, people are engaged in other activities besides the task at hand whether chatting with someone, listening to a podcast or music; just another form of isolation.  I remember when the cell phone first came into vogue and I watched people shop for groceries while having full-on conversations with friends or family. I believe we call it “multi-tasking”. I thought it was ridiculous then, and I still do. Most conversations can wait until our attention is less divided. In truth, multi-tasking is a fallacy; we cannot give our full attention to either thing we are doing so neither ‘thing’ is done well.

And here’s what I think is happening; we are so conditioned to artificial communication we don’t consider flesh-and-blood people standing in front of us or on the other end of electronic communication as God-breathed spirits, as people with feelings and therefore we treat them as if they are one-dimensional inconsequential entities. We say things we wouldn’t say if we were in their presence, or demonstrate how little value we place on them when we appear to be engaging in conversation and then check our phone for messages or conversate while playing an online game. Let’s face it; we are all guilty. In the extreme, perhaps it is easier to pick up a gun and kill another because we see them as one-dimensional inconsequential entities?

Do I think we need to go back to the days of chatting over the back fence? Not necessarily. What can we do? Engage in conversation, put down the cell phone ball-and-chain and look another in the eyes while speaking. Invite a friend out for coffee or a drink and chat on a heart level. Active listening and face-to-face chats are lost arts worth reviving…..

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