Thoughts on Communication Tools

It’s kind of weird, don’t you think, that blogging, texting, Facebooking, Twittering, etc, have become so blasé that no one thinks to even comment on these technological everyday manifestations of our interconnectivity anymore? I mean, these are things that didn’t really exist a mere 10 years ago, at least not in the form of critical mass that makes them truly meaningful in a social context. Now we take it for granted that we can constantly communicate with each other in what is tantamount to another dimension. We can convey ourselves immediately through the written word in a way never before possible, not to mention the addition of video, sound, and photos. It’s all so mundane now, but once upon a time getting onto your modem and then onto a bulletin board to share your hobby or chat with someone about something was a strange new world. Now it seems like there’s a blog for every locale, activity, and interest. And I think that’s a good thing, of course. I’m just amazed at how swiftly and easily we have taken it in stride.

What this portends, I believe, is that–contrary to the fear of a sci-fi future of disconnected blobs hiding behind self-stimulating machines–technology is evolving to enable us to connect with each other more effectively. In every type of way, both deep and shallow, both in sex and in spirit. You’ve got the guy using craigslist to find a prostitute on one hand and the mother sharing photos of her newborn baby on the other. And while there is truth to the statement that internet is the new TV–and I am guilty of wasting away far too much time doing nothing productive–the fact is that what you get out of technology is pretty much what you want to get out of it. The tools that we have at our fingertips are impressive. We can go to zoom in on a city street and find out exactly what the building looks like where we are meeting someone and what side of the street it’s on. We can look up the quote that has been bothering us and not only find out who said it, but furthermore what line on what page it was written in.

A lot of our use of this new power is purely narcissistic or for entertainment or voyeuristic, but then again, that’s what humanity is all about, aren’t we? You take a look at all the wide range of blogs out there, I mean, my god, you could write an anthropology paper on it. And yes, half the time Facebook is just people taking personality quizzes or posting status updates about how drunk they are, but it also gives you a glimpse into the lives of people who you may never have gotten to know otherwise. You may not want to talk to many people on the phone and keep up with them, but there are people that you grew up with or have met that you remember sometimes and get curious about. And it’s nice to be able to see their new baby, or to know that they moved to another city. In other words, a lot of stuff is a waste of time, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s all about how much you invest in it and how much you expect from it. It can be completely shallow, or it can be a tool to communicate things about yourself that you may not be able to otherwise.

Not everyone is effective at socializing in traditional contexts, like at a bar or even just in any face-to-face conversation. Some people just don’t understand body language, or come off as incredibly conceited, or don’t have much to say immediately. But new forms of communication allow such people to interact without confusing signals or ambient noise. Which can create some other forms of confusion, such as misunderstandings over sarcasm (hence the use of emoticons), but overall, there is the opportunity to convey many things that could not be conveyed in a traditional context.

So I’m a big fan of these developments. I feel like all these new tools are an opportunity to explore myself and others more deeply. My fiancee reads my blog and I read hers. We learn things about each other that we would never have said directly in a conversation. We announced our engagement on Facebook. So much more effective and easy than calling a bunch of people, which I never would have done anyway. And I remember farther back, when we were “going steady” or whatever the hell you call it now when you are not just hooking up with someone, how big of a step it was to change our relationship statuses on MySpace. Now look, I maligned MySpace and cellphones and every other social technological development just as much as anyone when they burst forth onto the scene. I resisted having a cellphone for years before I finally gave in. But now I obviously accept social tools for what they are, and I don’t feel weird about “advertising” my life anymore on the web. I think it’s great, that we can share so much about ourselves with each other. Is 85% of it TMI? Most definitely. But in the eyes of a god, it’s all food and fodder for understanding.


Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

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