Interpersonless Communication

Times they are a changing.
You catch little glimpses of this change now and then, like a couple of years ago when my eleven year old son called me while I was in the basement. In my mind I could see the satellites aligning above our house as the cell signals bounced back carrying his question the twelve feet or so to the basement.
“Yes son, you can open the Doritos,” I replied, “is there any reason that you couldn’t have walked down the sixteen steps to ask me in person?”
His replied was short, as if he were conserving his words for some future date in which they would be rationed, “That is why we have phones, right? Thanks for the chips.” This incredible technology had brought us infinitely closer together, but in some respects so much farther apart.
Times they are a changing.
“Dad does this number look familiar?” my daughter asked one evening. She went on to explain that she had been having a text conversation with that number, but had no clue who it was.
“How can you have a conversation with someone you might not know?” I asked.
“I am sure I know them, I just lost some contacts when I changed phones, I’ll figure it out” she replied.
A contact? Are we all becoming contacts in various databases? 816-487-4001, that was my friend Mike’s number in middle school, I can list off several others without the aid of an address book, contact list or the clairvoyance of caller id. We recognized people by their voice, not a ten digit number. It seems that in the blink of an eye we have advanced from switchboard operators to voiceless communication with very little human interaction, is the art of conversation dead for good?
Times they are a changing.
The most recent revelation came this past weekend. As I sat at dinner with some friends, I was scrolling through status updates on Facebook (I realize not very polite). I almost did a spit take as I came across my daughters – in a relationship with – status update. I had met this young man on a couple of occasions and she is a sophomore in high school, so I expected this type of thing would happen… but not like this.
He was supposed to come nervously to the house, sit with me in the living room and shake as he expressed his interest in dating my daughter. I had already lined up someone to borrow a shot gun from, to stand in the corner as a little added intimidation, now what?
The process is quite sterile, as it was explained to me. Either member of the couple changes their status, which sends a request to the other for acknowledgment/confirmation. This was a far cry from what I had endured so many years ago. We would painstakingly fold a piece of paper, making it look like an envelop to guard the contents from the peering eyes of the messenger. The messenger would then take the note to the intended recipient. The note usually asked a simple question. Do you like me, check yes or no.
By high school I testing the waters of calling girls at home, each time praying that their father wouldn’t answer the phone. An awkward conversation would dance around the possibility of a social encounter at some future date, but often left me lacking the words to fully express my intent.
Would I have fared better in this new age of interpersonal-less communication? With a device serving as the interface to our exchange, quite possibly I would have come across as more confident and perhaps a little taller.
Times they are a changing.
This weekend I also started playing Words With Friends with both my kids. It’s the electronic equivalent to Scrabble. Via messaging during the games we joked and challenged each other. Oddly enough I felt a little closer to them.
Maybe this ever changing world just requires us to update our internal software quite often to keep up and in the end will bring us closer together. For now I think I’ll see if I can still fold one of those notes, ask the wife if she will go out with me next weekend. If history is any indicator, I am not getting my hopes up.


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