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What are you really trying to say?

October 9, 2012

Communication: The final frontier.

When I think about the development of technology since I’ve been out of high school, I’m blown away by all the ways that we can communicate with people all over the world. I’m starting to wonder though, if everyone should be allowed to share their thoughts as much as they do.

Well, it would be seriously not fair to make people take a test or pass a standard of some sort to be able to write, tweet, facebook, blog or what have you. Where would be draw the line? Grammar and spelling?  Content? If we were living in a Fahrenheit 451 kind of world, would firefighters burn the computers of insolate twitter goers?

Of course not, because those types of texts seem to have very little relevance. We live in the same kind of world Ray Bradbury was trying to warn us about.  I think it’s odd that you can send a tweet to the world to let us all know that you’re in traffic, but communication between spouses seems to be constantly degenerating. ( I don’t have a study about this or anything. I’m just winging it here.)

Now that we can talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything what are we doing with this immense power?

Right after Gore Vidal passed away, I read this article commemorating his life. At the end of the article the author made a point about the lack of political wit and sharp commentary in our world today. At the time, I thought it was a stab at the face that anyone has the opportunity to high education, and with that the Ivy Leaguers of the past were going to be drowned by the chatter of those who were not quite so genius.

Well, actually that’s exactly what the article was saying. I haven’t changed my point of view on that. I have started to wonder about the quality of writing and wit that exist over the internet. I’ve seen posts from Ivy Leaguers about being stuck in traffic and getting “white girl” wasted.

No matter who you are, or how smart you think you are at some point you will says something  that’s absolutely fucking stupid on some social site.

Most of the things that I say that are terribly stupid are sponsored by alcohol. Don’t drive drunk, but if you have a laptop, I think it is okay to let the world know that I’m intoxicated.

While I’m making confessions, I’m pretty sure that I also say really stupid things while I’m drinking in person. Just this past Saturday I was having drinks with a few friends, when I decided it was good idea to make this grandiose statement about clothing sizes, economic advantages, God, allergies, and my grandmother. Some people might be thinking that somehow I could link all of those things in a way that made sense. It might be possible, but half way through the rant I realized it was stupid. I just pressed on. I couldn’t let it die.

This is how I feel about most of the posts on facebook. I totally feel for the people who are making these posts. I have moments like this, too. I’m worried that with too many thoughts and too much information that the market place of ideas might become flooded. It might be the case that valuable ideas are passes over, and communication might be watered down.  It might also be true that we are so busy with sharing silly thoughts with the world, that we don’t have time for one on one communication with the people who really matter to us.

Are we using the internet to seem like we are engaged while we’re really hiding from human contact?

I have also been wondering if the internet has made us more careless of each other’s feelings. Is it really okay to discuss personal things on the internet, like relationship complications and health?

Why are so many divorces these days fueled by twitter and facebook? What happened to cheating in the old days, where you had to actually go somewhere to prove your infidelity and get caught in person?

I still have basic human needs that can’t be met through a computer. I can order a pizza online, and talk to my friends online, but online hugs aren’t warm. You can’t smell someone’s cologne through a text message. You can’t hold someone’s hand on twitter. Those things are still important.

I was hanging out with my 3 year old niece on Sunday. She’s so expressive—she uses her hands when she talks, and when she’s excited about something (which is always) her eyes get really wide and she tries to use all the words she knows to explain to me what she’s experiencing. Telling other people what we see and how we feel is one of the first things we learn how to do. By the time you are able to have relationships and friends, you should definitely be able to communicate. Somewhere along the way, we learned how to be creative and twist the meaning of words. Somehow we learned the art of exaggeration and what happens when a concept is stretched too far. Then we all learned about twitter. I hope 140 characters isn’t the end of the road as far as communication is concerned.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Sparrow permalink
    October 9, 2012 4:17 am

    The bit at the end about your niece is brilliant. I think you captured the difficulty of communication and how the way we communicate changes based on our influences very well!

  2. October 9, 2012 6:09 am

    Communication is not about expression, but about getting the recipient to understand what you are trying to say. Sometimes you have to dumb that down or cut it to 140 characters to get them to listen. Telling them how to listen is not communicating. I agree with you, but I think it would be a pyrrhic victory. Change is inevitable, resistance is futile. Expression does not require a college degree. The trick is to communicate even with those that seem incapable of it.

    • October 9, 2012 6:30 am

      I’m wondering why you tell me that communication is not about expression and then you go on to use the words almost interchangeably. I never said that you have to have a college degree to communicate. Although I’m biased in thinking that my 3 year old niece is the smartest three year old there is, she is actually not a college graduate. I’m really trying to explore what point we are really expressing to the recipients. I want to know if there’s a link between the change and the content. A victory for me would be a world in which we embrace technological change while still managing to every once in a while say something that is meaningful–but then again maybe the dialog is meaningful and I just don’t get it.

  3. October 9, 2012 6:57 am

    To me, and I did not express this, what I see you saying is that communication is through experience and the experience of talking with your niece is more communicative than 140 characters of what feels like impersonal statements without a recipient.

    I think there is superficial links between change and content, yet human drama is always the context. The great dramas of history, the tragedies and comedies are indeed what we live and communicate about.


    Big ideas no doubt
    Convey meaning with short words
    lost to symbol count

    Conveying ideas is not reliant on expression, but on getting the recipient to understand and you enjoy the expression that your niece uses… which does not fit 140 characters. In one case expression is best when you are the recipient, yet otherwise it is not a requirement. The meaning being that communication is context sensitive, regardless of the medium. For some 140 characters is well enough too many. For others, it is barely a greeting. For yet others it is incomprehensible. Who is in which category depends on the context of each communication.

    Beauty is, they say, in the eye of the beholder…. someone should get them some eye drops.

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