When we were twelve, Tom would call me, post-dinner-and-homework, and say, "Hey it's Tom. Wanna talk?" We had recently discovered that the telephone could be used for prolonged conversation, as opposed to simply arranging what time we would meet at the mall.
So we'd talk for hours. About nothing and everything and our friends and our families and each other. Eventually one of our respective parents would pick up an extension in another room and say, "OK guys, time to get off the phone." And so we'd say goodnight.
Eighteen years later I still talk to Tom on the phone regularly, but the telephone, as a general concept, seems to have taken on an entirely new set of purposes in my life, thanks to the introduction of smartphones (and my recent acquisition of a Blackberry). Texting, Facebook, email, Twitter and the like now often stand in place of voice-to-voice speaking.
Don't get me wrong--I have fully embraced these new, more passive forms of communication (I mean, hello? I'm a blogger.), but I wonder (and worry) about what they might be doing to my ability to communicate in the long run. In high school and college, I wouldn't think twice before calling a guy I was interested in. Now, I'll stare at my cell phone, willing him to text me.
Texting. Ohh, texting. Never before have words been more easily taken out of context, incorrectly expressed sentiments (or lack thereof) and inspired unintended fury. Text messages are easy to disappear behind--a quality both appealing and scary, yet sometimes they end up accomplishing exactly the opposite of their intention. Tone can't be read in text messages and so jokes and sarcasm are often missed, the recipient staring at his or her phone, thinking, and possibly replying "WTF?"
Obviously I'm not going to stop texting, nor will I abandon my enthusiastic use of email, Facebook, Twitter, etc, but I think it's worthwhile to be wary (or, at least, aware) of the ways in which they might affect my ability to be authentic. Maybe I should pick up the phone more often...or at least start Skype-ing.