Can You Hear Me Now?
July 17, 2014
Composition II – Gregory Mccoy
“Can you hear me now?” a catch phrase used in a cell phone commercial in which a man roams around with his phone making sure he has a signal. It’s a valid question, even in an age where we can communicate in more ways than ever before. It seems as if everyone is more accessible, wifi is everywhere, and even those who can’t afford to support themselves can have a cell phone. Internet capable technology is extremely affordable, and people across the world are adapting to this new wide world of communication. The world is changing, and experts are divided about the consequences of the fast-growing new ways people have to reach out to each other. Social media is now the most popular way to keep in touch with old friends, new friends, and family. Text messaging, along with its altered lingo, has almost replaced telephone calls and voice mail messages entirely. Business meetings have been replaced by emails or internet based conference applications such as Skype. Customer service is defined now by automated voice recognition software as well as long, complicated touchtone menus. Societal courtesies are forgotten, as people forego their manners to check their phones in mid-conversation. Technology has changing who we are, how others see us, and what we feel is important. Refusal to accept this fact will not stop this change, rather it will leave an individual frustrated and unable to keep up with the rest of the computerized world. In this fast paced world, adapting to new technology is essential, new and faster ways of human contact have changed the way we relate to one another and refusal to adapt will only leave one behind.
The early 2000s introduced us to social media with the now almost defunct Myspace website. It was the first opportunity we had to create our own image in cyberspace, by allowing us to customize our own page with photos, interests, and music. Having been an amazing success, Myspace paved the way for other websites, like Twitter and Facebook. Companies began to rely on the internet for advertising, since it is the best way to reach a target demographic without having to pay outlandish fees to reach everyone all at once. Blogs have replaced personal journals, and can usually be viewed by others along with these new customized advertisements. Someone who has a Facebook is encouraged to “like” any product, company, band, entertainer, and even foods/beverages. Companies can then use this information to determine whether or not a user would be a part of their audience, and then pay for advertising on a “per click” basis.
Social media can also be credited for altering the way we view the world, especially politics and religion. In an everyday social setting, talking about politics and religion was once considered taboo. With the introduction of websites such as Facebook, users can share their personal beliefs and can even use these posts to influence others. Election time has been given a facelift, and those with strong political standings can campaign for free. In the most recent presidential election, candidates could easily see their standing among voters by how many people were following and supporting them via social media. Religion has also taken up residence on social media channels. A Facebook user can choose to “like” Jesus Christ’s homepage, of which there are hundreds to choose from. All faiths have had a similar impact; even paganism, one of the world’s oldest religions, has gone digital as rituals can be held online and information about deities can be accessed through one’s cell phone.
Technology has also changed the way we connect with one another. Text messaging was once a long, complicated, and expensive process completed by using anagrams and shortened versions of words spelled out using a number keypad. Most phones now either come with a slide-out keyboard, or with a touchtone screen version. Most phone plans even come with an unlimited text option, further adding to the continued use and popularity of texting. We have altered our language to fit within character limit confines, and the words we have created are labeled by some experts as laziness. Others claim that this new lingo is here to stay and our new way of spelling should be added to the dictionaries. In the video “Txtng is killing language. JK!!!”, (Txtng is killing language, McWhorter) John McWhorter tells us that texting is considered “fingered speech” in that we write the way we talk. We don’t worry about capital letters and punctuations or proper grammar, because we write how we think. There are various reasons why text messaging is the most favored way to reach someone. For one, you can carry on several conversations at one time. Normally, chatting to several people at once about different subjects would be considered extremely rude, but if done through a text message no one can know how many other conversations you are involved in, thereby eliminating the threat of upsetting someone. Another reason texting is favored is because it is convenient to be able to reply at a time that works for the recipient. A new mother, for example, who is busy changing diapers and feeding her baby, isn’t forced to carry a phone attached to her ear. She can simply receive the messages when they are sent, and can look at them later at her convenience. Finally, text messages can be changed up until the time they are sent. An individual no longer risks blurting out a response without thinking. Text messages provide an opportunity to revise what is said before it is sent.
Text messaging technology doesn’t come without consequence, however. There is the obvious problem that no one can tell how something is said. There is no voice, so there is no way to know if the message is being sent with sarcasm or a joking tone of voice. Also, failure to respond in a timely manner without a valid reason can be misinterpreted to mean that there is a lack of interest or a derogatory viewpoint on the topic. Without one-to-one interaction, it is impossible to detect the intent behind the words, and therefore causes conflict. The same is true for emails. In her article “Lost in Translation” (Lost in Translation, Wellner) Alison Stein Wellner states: “Battles started over e-mail often rage longer, and more dramatically, than face-to-face disputes”. She encourages companies to regulate what can be said electronically, and to make sure that the human element of communication remains intact. Additionally, individuals seem to have forgotten common sense by sending text messages at inopportune times, such as while driving. A sharp increase in automobile accidents is attributable to people “texting” while operating a motor vehicle. Injuries and fatalities are sadly common among people who text message without thinking first.
A successfully run society requires that we remember our manners. What is left of a civilization if people succumb to an environment where people no longer have to conduct themselves in a socially acceptable manner? Meetings, classes, vacations, and meals have always been an environment for social interaction and communication. Recently, a sharp decline in the ability to communicate effectively has shown that people no longer respect those who are in close physical proximity. Instead of listening or speaking openly, many people decide that answering messages or taking pictures is much more important than the person sitting right in front of them. When waiting in line for an attraction or even a table at their favorite restaurant, people now have the ability to entertain themselves with their phones or tablets, instead of by talking to other people in their party or mingling and meeting new people. Instead of listening to a college professor and interacting by asking questions and actively discussing the current topic, students can now record the lecture and spend their time answering emails, watching videos, or even playing their favorite game on their smart phones. Losing our ability to actively take part in social events or other activities is one of the many costs of technology and the digital age. In his article “Keep Your Thumbs Still While I am Talking to You”, (Keep Your Thumbs Still, Carr) David Carr illustrates this by saying “Every meal out with friends or colleagues represents a negotiation between connectedness to the grid and interaction with those on hand”. It is a constant battle for attention, and even though it might seem like it is the “in” thing to do, the reality is we may be alienating those we are close to by choosing a phone over a person.
Is it possible for technology and personal interaction to coexist? It would be possible, but there needs to be an awareness of a growing addiction and problem. Experts say that smart phones are really creating a brave new world of communication, but it should be done in moderation. It’s fine to check your phone every now and then, but there are times when it is best to put it on silent mode and stick it in your purse or pocket. Keeping in touch is fine, as long as one remembers that they also need to socially relate to those around them. In the article “Lost in Translation” (Lost In Translation, Wellner), Wellner discusses some options to avoid losing a connection between a company and its employees. She cites how one company created “Email Free Fridays” – one day during the week where communicating via regular telephone or face-to-face is the only acceptable method. This helps management to remember that it’s not just a name on a screen, it’s a real person. There are also other ways, such as a personal rule to turn off technology for a certain amount of time, whether for dinner or even for a vacation. Those who are technology “junkies” may very well need some professional help. It is imperative to our civilization and society that we welcome evolution and change, but at the same time it is also imperative that we remember that at the heart of all interactions there are people. Consideration of other people’s feelings means a lot more now that we are tempted on a regular basis to avoid them.
(Lost in Translation, Wellner)
Sep 1, 2005 - Lost in Translation. Alison Stein Wellner (Txtng is killing language. JK!!!, McWhoter)
February 2013 at TED2013 - Txtng is killing language. JK!!! John McWhorter (Keep Your Thumbs Still, Carr)
April 15, 2011 NYTimes.com - Keep Your Thumbs Still When I’m Talking to You David Carr