Monday, May 10, 2010

Ex Communicators

Some days I wake up and can't think of a thing to post. Coming up with a topic seems to require scraping a putty knife across the dregs of my cranial matter. Other days I wake up with half a dozen topics in my head and the big issue is deciding which one to run with. Today is one of the latter sort of days. I've made note of the other ideas for those Empty Head (note: I did not say empty-headed) days.

A couple of days ago a friend on Facebook posed the question, to wit, "Why doesn't FB have a 'bummer' button for when you're sad about what someone posted?" I know my friend was being somewhat tongue in cheek, but as I posted my response, "Yeah, because it takes so much effort to type, I'm very sorry to hear that," I thought, egads... how far have we devolved? We've completely forgotten how to communicate except in soundbites and the staccato blips of text messages. Not only does most of our language get misused and abused, but now we don't even know how to form a complete sentence, much less spell it correctly. How very sad.

This past weekend I received a sizable envelope in the mail from my Mother. She's cleaning out her place in anticipation of moving to a "senior living" apartment (heaven forbid we call it an old age home). In the package were several letters that I'd written to Mom after I first moved to Washington, two letters that my nanny kids had written, and a card that all five of her children had signed and given to my Dad on his 46th birthday (36 plus years ago). My Mom saves stuff like that. She's old school when it comes to letters and it's one of the things I love most about her. No matter what the week is like, I can almost always count on a letter, hand-written no less, in the mailbox from Mom. It was fun to read my old letters, interesting to see where my head was 12 years ago. They weren't hand-written, but they were all at least two pages typed up. None of them contained anything particularly noteworthy. They were breezy, newsy letters about places I'd gone, things I'd seen. My Mom thought enough of them to save them.

I'm conflicted and clearly hypocritical. I love the internet. I love the speed with which I can drop everyone I know a line or two. It's given me the ability to connect with people I wouldn't otherwise keep in touch with or even know of. I hear from family members nearly every day, most of whom wouldn't write a letter and drop it in the mail box without it being a jaw-dropping event on my end. The reverse holds true as well. However, I'm dismayed that so much of communication out there consists of LOL, WTF, BRB, OMG and the like. That's not communicating, not really.

It also saddens me that those of us who truly do communicate over the internet will likely not keep any record of those communications. Although we might save messages in our inboxes for a while, I don't know anyone who prints them out and saves them for posterity. Given the frailty of computers and networks, emails are lost all the time, and once they're lost, without the benefits of a computer forensics specialist, they're gone for good. I'd love to go back and read some of the emails that I wrote when I first logged on in 1995.

I know of people who wouldn't communicate with the outside world at all for days if it wasn't for the internet. There again, there's a good side and a bad side. At least they are communicating, but they're not getting out and seeing faces. They're not getting the benefit of hearing real laughter or seeing a smile. I'll admit there have been days that I was one of those people... sitting in my bathrobe, drinking coffee, and waiting for someone, anyone, to "talk" to. The world has shrunk. We talk to more people than we ever have, but we know them less.

I can't imagine where I would be if it weren't for this blog. Would I have journaled? Maybe. But I don't think I would have kept up with it the way I have with this. For one thing, part of what has kept me going is the feedback I get. Part of it is knowing that somewhere out there, somehow, someone is hearing what I have to say. I've also pondered, many times in fact, what happens to all of this rambling if I fall off the face of the earth? It's not that I'm pompous enough to think that it's worthy of posterity, but I'd like to think that in 10 or 20 years, someone, if not I, could look back on this and have a smile and shed a tear.

Conundrums. *Sigh* Ain't they grand?


  1. Very thoughtful post Barb. Some comments:
    1. What does BRB mean?
    2. I don't believe the general population communicated better before the internet...For instance, like your FB/bummer example...that same person might not have known to SAY (much less write) "I'm very sorry to hear that" upon learning bad news.
    People who didn't write letters or stay in touch with friends BEFORE, now actually do write emails and "chat" because it is easier and takes less time. I am one of those people for sure. I have never been a good communicator if you weren't in the same room with me. I don't like to write, never have. So I lost several friends and acquaintances along the way because of my lack of long distance communication skills. Now with the use of the web, I have found them and can occasionally whip up an email in 3 minutes to stay in touch.
    3. The letter writers of yesterday are STILL the letter writers of today. Your mother still writes to you. My mother still sends long rambling written cards to all her friends. If you were a good communicator before, you are likely still a good communicator. And vice versa.
    4. In today's hectic busy lifestyle people don't have time to write long, wordy yet poetic handwritten letters. I will admit to enjoying the reading of such letters (especially historical ones), but reading some of my original emails from 1995 between my BFF and myself are just as entertaining, if not longer! (Yes, I have file folders FULL of them!)
    5. Although communication has gotten shorter (lol) and much less poetic, it still accomplishes the same final task. Letting someone know you heard, you are there, you care, you are thinking of them. It's a connection that we all crave. And if it comes in the form of LOL, LUV YA, SRY, ME2, etc., it still comes.

    In conclusion, I will blame the internet for a lot of things, but communication (or lack thereof) is not one of them IMHO. *grin*

  2. I do have some e mails from family members i have saved. jen from Australia. and my bro.. couple of Monicas. How you have enriched our lives reading your blog is beyond words to express! keep throwing it out there!

  3. Danke, Dana. BRB means Be Right Back. I agree with everything you said, and if you'll look at my post, you'll see that I even called myself hypocritical about the subject. I'm as quilty as the next person of using text-speak, and I'm happily in touch with a lot of people I wouldn't be, were it not for the internet. For someone who doesn't like to write, you sure are good at it, Ma'am. ;-)

    Vicki, thank you. No worries. I'll keep spittin' it out!

  4. Very often, Igs is what I call Vicki who also commented on this post... Igs is short for Iggy, which is short for Island Girl (she lives on Whidbey Island). But I have seen it in text-speak, and I believe it stands for I Guess So.

    Clear as mud? L O L!


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