To Talk or Type?
Posted July 4, 2011on:
Do you get the feeling that you don’t actually talk to people anymore? I do, sometimes. From conversations with family to chats with friends or coworkers, I tend to type my messages rather than just pick up a phone. Even when I’m not in front of a computer, I SMS, BBM, or type a straight up e-mail rather than call. All of those on my phone, of course, an item once thought of as a device to facilitate speech.
I tell myself that I ping people before calling because I don’t want to interrupt them. After all, particularly at work, they are busily concentrating on other problems. But I also do this with my family. Though I live across an ocean from my brother, I can easily call him. He has a Skype phone. That said, I tend to text him, right within the Skype application. He’s not busy. I’m not terribly busy. We could talk. But we don’t. We text. Hell, I’ve done this with my brother when he was just sitting on the other side of the couch from me. Reason we gave? My mother was between us and it was just easier to type than lean forward. Even at the time I thought it was a lame excuse.
This goes on more than I like to admit. More than I like to think about, actually. Virtual interaction is, indeed, with real people. I firmly believe that people are people, even if I only know them by a Twitter handle, so my friendships with them are just as strong as with people I have met in real life in similar circumstance, say at a networking event.
But what does it say about our culture that there are individuals who prefer to text or IM than use a free program like Skype that allows both voice and image? With a text only interaction, we can multi-task. When a person is in front of us, even as a video image via Skype, we have to pay attention or risk being rude. It means we can’t multi-task. We have to narrow our field of focus to the individual in front of us. Pay attention to someone else. People are now so used to multi-tasking that they are not ready and willing to devote the necessary attention to the person in front of them, or to welcome that kind of singular interaction. Yes, sometimes we’re working, but couldn’t we continue the work after the talk? Or answer the phone with a smile, explain the situation, and call back later? That’s what people used to do.
I don’t think that we are becoming only virtual. People still like to go out together, do things together. That’s why they’ll download music illegally but pay a premium to go out to a concert with friends. But the fact that when we have the option and opportunity to go for a face-to-face interaction we opt for text is a bit worrying.
What is your experience?