Communication has become way too impersonal

We live in an increasingly impersonal world dominated by technology. Technology is wonderful when it works.

Writing a newspaper column is not as easy as you might think. I’ve started and stopped this week at least three times. I’ve erased — excuse me, deleted — my words more times than I want to admit to you. I guess that means I’ve put a little extra thought into this space this week.

The first effort was entirely too personal and I got about five paragraphs in and didn’t like the way I was whining. I’ve always worn my feelings on my sleeve and I suspect that by the time you read this, I may well have burned that bridge.

I hope not.

The second attempt was too much of a downer as well. I’ve always liked to think of myself as a “glass is half full” person. I don’t like being the person who stands outside and throws rocks at the glass house.

Broken windows can be expensive to fix.

Maybe the third time will be the charm.

We live in an increasingly impersonal world dominated by technology. Technology is wonderful when it works.

Well, most of the time.

I’m not quite sure how I navigated the first five and a half decades of my life without Facebook, but I’m pretty confident that I did not live a deprived adolescence or young adulthood.

Yet I find myself waiting on the highly desired “like” to any given comment or situation that I felt was significant enough to make a comment on.

A “like” I would liken to the old Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. An actual reply is even better.

Forgive me, some of you may not be aware what Good Housekeeping is. It’s a magazine. You know, something people hold in their hands and read. Kinda like the newspaper.

I have always considered Facebook as a means of communicating. After all, it’s so much easier, and I suppose less expensive, to comment on something posted on Facebook as opposed to picking up the phone and calling someone to actually speak directly with feedback to something.

Wait, that’s almost like telling someone face to face you agree or disagree with them.

Face-to-face would seem to be passe in modern culture.

It’s entirely too easy to sit at home, or at work (you know you check out Facebook at work), and type in a response without having to look at that person in the face.

Or — you can just choose to ignore someone altogether. That really started when somebody invented the answering machine.

Remember when the phone would ring and you’d almost break a leg running across the room to pick up the phone off the hook and you had no idea who it was that was on the other end of the line?

Then along came answering machines. You could sit across the room and hear the message someone was leaving. If it was someone you wanted to speak to, you could actually pick up the phone and start a conversation.

Fast forward a number of years, actually to 1984, and texting was developed by a Franco-German company. It was originally known as SMS technology. SMS is an acronym for short messaging service, short because texts were initially limited to 160 characters.

One source I came across said the first real “text” message wasn’t sent until 1992, from a PC, because way back then mobile phones didn’t come with typewriters, er, keyboards on them.

Now kids are “texting” near novels.

A dozen years later, in 2004, a really smart kid named Mark Zuckerberg and three of his buddies at Harvard developed Facebook, which has become one of the largest social media platforms in the world.

I know the President prefers Twitter, but I don’t tweet.

There’s also Instagram, which I do use occasionally.

When I first signed up for Facebook in 2009, I thought it might be a great way to communicate with family that I have become socially distanced from over the years.

I haven’t seen my sister, Joyce, face-to-face in seven years. That’s insane, and a little embarrassing, but it’s true. We do communicate by phone, actually verbalizing with each other from time to time.

I’ve been able to hook up with two of my first cousins who I haven’t seen in more than 30 years, but it’s always via Facebook. For whatever reason, none of us has typed a phone number into the smartphone and actually “spoken” with either of them.

Five other first or second cousins live in Georgia, all north of the Fall Line, but instead of, God forbid, actually driving to visit one another, or pick up the phone and call one another, we communicate via Facebook.

I guess, no, I know some form of communication is better than none.

All of which leads me back around to the whole point of this. Modern technology, this social media, certainly can be a good thing.

Technology and social media also can be extremely frustrating. I spent entirely too much time this past Wednesday waiting for that one communication that never came.

You might ask, why didn’t I pick up the phone and reach out. I can pretty much assure you that I would have verbalized something I would later have regretted.

Maybe Facebook isn’t so bad after all.

By Doug Walker, Associate Editor and business columnist. first published October 17, 2020