Thursday, February 28, 2008

Communicating More, Saying Less?

Last night, between the hours of 4:30 and about 9:00 I sent 20+ emails and four texts. I left two voicemails and chatted for about 2 minutes to my sister, long distance, on our cell phones. I touched the lives of over 25 people in some way, shape or form, but I'm not sure I really said much.
And that was a slow evening.
In the past few years our cell phones, personal computers, Blackberries, text messaging, IM-ing, email capabilities and Internet usage in general has managed to connect well over 25 percent of the human race in a "speed of light" global village.
And, it seems that the more connected we are in this electronic landscape, the lonlier we find ourselves. A study conducted by the Kaiser Family Fund showed that American children now spent an average of 6.5 hours per day watching television, surfing the Internet, text messaging and playing with electronic media in 2006.
The evolved terseness of e-mail and chat rooms produced the need for the emoticon, and we now rely on a variation of a smiley face to convey any depth of feeling in print. The typical text message consists of 3-7 words, most of which are abbreviated, to confirm plans, check timetables, send along the quick laugh or holiday greeting en masse to your entire address book. I couldn't tell you the last time I called someone simply to ask how they were doing. Or [insert shocked gasp here] sat down to write a letter to a long-distance friend that didn't involve belated birthday greetings or a thank you for a baby gift. It seems that as the means for communication increases, our ability to do so travels the slippery slope. In fact, according to a national survey conducted by the US Department of Education, English literacy among college graduates has declined dramatically in the past 10 years. Only 31 percent of college graduates today are proficient in English literacy, compared with 40 percent just a decade ago.
If there's a cure out there, I'm not sure what it might be, short of unplugging yourself from daily life. Suggestions, anyone?

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