Everybody’s chatting, but is anybody listening?

Last night my parents handed me an AARP article entitled, “Where Conversation Goes from Here” by David Dudley. AARP The Magazine, as you can expect has a mostly elderly audience. My parents understand how Social Media works about as well as I understand how to crochet a quilt -or whatever. Dudley attested to the danger our society is in of becoming a nation of hyperconnected hermits. To be fair, he doesn’t completely blame technologies like smartphones and twitter for the dwindling one-on-one communication in our society. I think he makes a good point in noting that it’s our human desire to feel important within our communities and these technologies give our messages amplitude we didn’t have access to 10 years ago.

Since the early 20th century we saw a heavy shift of information and communication migrating to radio and television. They are entertaining mediums. Now with the internet, as we discussed in our lecture on “Blogging and Your Company,” we are not just accepting messages from mainstream media sources, we are now contributing, and opening channels amongst one another in our community.

The entertainment potential has now been multiplied by the number of communication channels we use which is rapidly growing. Finally we are seeing the emergence of organization and categorization of our conversations. Facebook, Twitter, Blogging are all opening lines of communication while at the same time allowing us to distance ourselves from the PEOPLE we are communicating with. This is the real heart of Dudley’s argument – distance. When I was a kid, any telephone calls to the house during family meal time were politely asked to call back and time was made for enjoying dinner together. I’m in my late 20’s now but it’s not uncommon for me to text somebody while visiting my parents for a dinner together. It’s not even rude anymore -but a consequence of our busy lives. Or is it?

As a final note, I always find it odd when somebody says they can’t afford something- a new pair of glasses, for instance. It’s not that they can’t afford it, but they have other priorities. They need to pay $150 this month towards that new car they chose to buy, for instance. The same is true for time. We all have 24 hours in our day. If your priority is to spend 10 of them at work, and another 8 sleeping, you have another 6 hours to budget for time with family, relaxing, driving, doing chores, showering, exercising, watching tv, reading, etc. Let’s just be honest with ourselves and not blame our “busy lifestyles” or “technology” for losing touch with friends and family we used to have close connections with. We simply chose to re-prioritize. If you are txting your employer while your baby is taking her first steps, you fouled up your priorities a bit. I had a hard enough time doing homework in high school in the 90’s. There’s so much information and time wasting tools available to us now, we all just need to step back and prioritize. We all have the ability to design our lives and time how we see fit.

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