Saturday, January 10, 2009

Too Much Communication?

Okay, I'm about to show my age. When I was growing up in my little North Texas hometown, we picked up the phone, turned a crank and asked the operator (we called her "Central") to connect us with a number. Ours was "246"; the local soda fountain, run by Frank Green, had "100," which he always pronounced "one naughty nought." My point? There was a human touch involved in the communication process. But it also required some effort. We called when we really needed to.

Skip ahead six or seven decades and consider how we communicate. We email. We text. We "Tweet" and post on our FaceBook pages. We make calls on our cell phones and iPhones and Blackberries. Watch the cars around you the next time you're driving home and see how many of the drivers are talking on a cell phone. Communication is easy. Press a button, click on an icon, sometimes just speak the right words and your voice recognition software responds. It's effortless, frequent, and many times thoughtless. The result is what I call communication pollution.

I know of one situation where a person eventually lost their job because they thought they were sending an email to one individual, but instead it went to a bunch of folks and many of them took exception to the content. I joined FaceBook and Twitter because I kept hearing this advice that authors need to achieve name recognition, and this was a good way to do it. But recently I've seen several instances of someone hacking into a FaceBook or Twitter account and posting questionable messages in the name of a high-profile person.

Some people use the opportunity to post on the Internet (blog, web site, email, Twitter, FaceBook, you name it) when they really don't have anything of consequence to say. I've begun to severely limit the number of people whose posts ("Tweets") I follow on Twitter, weeding out the ones who post 15 to 20 times a day--and this is no exaggeration. Hey, if I wanted to know that they're grocery shopping, I'd follow them around.

So why do I still email and Twitter? I use electronic communication to keep in touch with a small circle of friends, many of them in the publishing profession. These are folks I only see once a year or so, and I enjoy this chance to keep our friendship fresh. But I try to do it in moderation.

Now, lest you think I'm a saint, Kay and I have offices that are maybe 100 feet apart where we sit at our respective computers--and send emails back and forth! And, in case it's more urgent, we have a wireless intercom system that connects us for instant communication. See, I'm hooked as well. But I still would like to plead for a little more sanity, and ask that we all think twice before we push that button or click that tab.

In case you think I'm the only person who feels this way, check out this great article. And let me emphasize that I'm not suggesting an end to electronic communication, just moderation in using it. I guess asking everyone to log off would sort of defeat the purpose of my blogging, wouldn't it? And surely you folks wouldn't...get your finger away from that button. Don't. Please don't. I'm--


Anonymous said...

I think you're on to something, Richard.

I never lived in a small enough town to pick up the phone and talk to "Central." (KC, born and bred.) But I do remember party lines. Our house shared a line with five other families when I was a child. If Mrs. Mahoney was in a chatty (or catty) mood when you needed to the phone for an out!

Then there was my Scottish-born father. He believed that ALL forms of communication were to be reserved for emergencies only. That included speaking at the dinner table! If we had something to say, we were strongly advised not to..... :)

I'm not sure I'll last on Twitter. It's a bit overstimulating for me. I need lots of white space in my life, and Twitter kind of makes me hyperventilate.

Thank you for the great post! A lot to think about here.....

Anne Mateer said...

Like any good thing, balance is the key. Unfortunately, balance takes work--and self-discipline. And I know, for me, I can't keep up a daily running conversation with 20 people. I do good to keep up a conversation with the people in my house!

Thanks for being the voice of reason, RIchard. We'll continue to strive for balance together!

Anonymous said...

Cell phones drive me nuts. Why would I ever care what someone standing in the grocery line has to say to who knows who about who knows what? I mean, I once had to listen to a lady behind me in the post office talk loudly to her mother-in-law about the previous night's American Idol telecast. Puh-leez. Private conversations weren't made for public airing.

I wonder, too, is this really "communication" or is it just fill in the blanks with chatter/activity because real thoughts are too taxing?

I love blogging and I love email, but like you said, Richard, there's a limit to what is and should be recorded.

Anonymous said...

LOL. Richard, you crack me up. I LOVE LOVE LOVE being on line, chatting up with people, getting to know them,'s a blast.

I'm not real great in person, socializing, mixers, stuff like that. So, online is the best for me. **smile**

I'm lovin' Facebook the most. Not a huge fan of Twitter, but I've linked it to my FaceBook, so I can comment on there and it'll mix with Twitter :-)