Saturday, February 10, 2007

Electronic Communication

My friend, Mike, posted the following in the comments to my last post:

One thing I do find interesting in blogging or in any form of electronic format is the way many people tend to use it instead of face to face communication. I enjoy emailing, instant messaging, text messaging much like other people. However, there is a point where electronic correspondence can only go so far.

I believe there is no substitute for being in the same room across from someone engaged in conversation. I am not saying electronic communication is bad. I am just saying it is a poor substitute for the real thing. There is so much more to communication other than words and emoticons: body language, voice inflection, eye contact, physical appearance, intuition, etc.

I do understand the advantages of electronic communication such as availability, timing, able to span great distances, reach a greater audience, etc. I do wonder what electronic communication says about us. Does it say that we don't have the time to meet face to face? Does it say our time with people is less important and relegated to whenever we can get to them? Does it say we are fearful of what being honest in front of someone will be like? Maybe is just says we are utilizing a technology to reach out to people we wouldn't otherwise be able to?

Electronic communication has been a mixed bag for me. Some people are just like they are on paper. Others, seem to hide well in between the fine lines of black and white fonts. I am interested in knowing what yours and others experiences have been.

It's either ironic or "telling" on Mike's part that he is a friend I've become pretty close with only electronically. I do have some thoughts and answers to Mike's questions, and it seemed worthy of an entire post over being buried in a strand of comments.

I think I'll answer most of these questions honestly and forthrightly based on the friendship I have with Mike. Just to sort of experiment with these questions using a real situation, because I think the answers will be telling and relate to other people and other relationships.

1. No, it doesn't say we don't have time to meet face-to-face, Mike. It says that neither of us have made it enough of a priority. I think it's partially because we do have such a great way of communicating electronically (we chat) and moving the relationship into any other realm could potentially spoil that wonderful camaraderie we have. I don't think it will. But still, it's a possibility. (mike lives within meeting distance from me, as in dinner, lunch, or coffee....and we've learned that we have a few mutual friends...which means we have both confirmed that neither of us are knife-wielding stalkers)

2. It's not that our time together is less "important", it's that it's less "urgent". Some of the most important discussions I've had lately, affirming my own choices and challenging me to rethink some things, have been with you, Mike. And yet, you and I both have "urgent" things at times which keep us from sitting down at the computer at the same time and electronically sort of bumping into one another for an important talk. You're also really fun and funny to talk with and so, it's like a nifty surprise or treat when we do get to talk. I enjoy that aspect of it as well.

3. Some people might fear being honest in front of others and use electronic communication as a barrier against that. That's one of those things we have to tackle as individuals. In some ways, for me, I think it works the opposite. I may be a bit MORE open and honest electronically because I don't have to see the person wince when they hear what I have to say. I'm not sure. I'm known by everyone around me to be a very "open book". It's just my way.

4. I think your last point sums it up for me quite well. Some of us do use technology to reach out to others in a way we wouldn't otherwise be able to do. In the end, I believe technology is like ANY other good gift made possible by God's infinite wisdom. It can be perverted and used as much as a tool for tearing down as it can be as a tool for building up. It can become an idol in our lives and replace other good gifts that God intends for us to utilize to further his kingdom. The older I get, the more that it seems to me that just about EVERYTHING boils down to submission and moderation. Or, in the end, just SUBMISSION.

5. Overall, my experiences with meeting folks in person that I've met electronically have been good ones. Honestly, I think that's because I don't hold back electronically. I'm just ME, all the time. People either respond to that with their own honesty or go away and never come back. So, the folks I have met (not a long list) have been true to their electronic persona and I remain pleased to call them my friends.

So, Mike, when are we going to finally MEET?????

love and grace,

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Mary said...

Nah - it's just a new form of communication without pertinence to lack of social graces or gestures.

It's wonderful to communicate with people from all over the world. Do I have the time and money to meet everyone face to face? No. Does it speak of my desires to keep a mask?? No more than in the olden days when you wear a smile to cover your pain.

Electronic communication, while in it's infancy, will develop it's own rules of politness and appropriatness in our daily lives. As well, electronic reading and interpretation will become more enhanced.

I mean did speech overtake emotions? Sometimes? Did letter writing overtake conversation - sometimes. Did the telephone overtake visits? Sometimes.

But if you look at what is really important - relating to one another, sharing our thoughts and experiences, learning and developing new ways of managing our lives in a productive way - then hey - this internet thing is awesome.

Are there liars and charletons out in cyperspce - yup. Can't avoid those kind of characters no matter what.

grace said...

Mary: I didn't mean to ignore your comment! Just got busy then let it go unnoticed for a while. I appreciate your input. I agree...overall, this internet thing is awesome! :)

love and grace,