Emoticons need not apply...
Oh, the joys of communicating.
A friend asked me to lunch recently. It was a nice gesture, but I wasn't aware of his offer until several days later when I checked my Twitter account's private messages.
With all of the great tools we have to communicate, we sure do have problems communicating well.
I asked my friend why he didn't send me a text message or call about lunch. Along with Twitter and phones, we're connected in every way imaginable — Facebook, e-mail, Linked In, Foursquare are just a few forms of virtual communication available to us.
I know when he spills a drink on his tie at work or when he's watching "Saturday Night Live" clips. I know when he checks into a store, and could rattle off his resume in no time.
Heck, I could even show you pictures of him as a baby.
We consider each other good friends. Yet, I can't recall the last time we had a one-on-one, uninterrupted conversation that involved the phone or happened in person.
Most of our "communicating" takes place via Facebook chats and text messages that stop, then restart minutes, hours or days later.
The situation with this friend is far from unique as I tend to "communicate" with most friends via their check-ins, updates and uploads to a multitude of social networking sites.
Like it or not — and, despite my love of technology and social media — phone calls offering a solid time to catch up with a friend seem to have gone the way of written letters.
We're very much an instant society — now, now, now! And, besides the "now!" mindset, we also want to cram as much as we can into whatever we're doing.
Why limit ourselves to only focusing on one friend when we can — on our time — stay updated with those we consider friends? It's easier and more convenient to skim through a list than to be bothered by focusing solely on one friend.
It's sad, if you think about it. We're not allowing ourselves the chance to hear — in detail — the stories of our friends' lives. We're missing out on great social interactions by only checking up on our friends via social media websites.
In some way, the term "social media" is a misnomer. The quantity of those we know has increased, but the quality of what we know about these folks is lacking.
How social are we if we're consistently quickly flipping through photos and status updates about our friends' lives?
My friend, the one who sent me the private Twitter message offering a lunch meet up, is guilty of thumbing through photos and updates and not stopping long enough to care about news from his friends — well, at least from me.
So, phone calls with him tend to be short as he seems uninterested or scatterbrained. It seems as though he prefers getting to "know" his friends by scrolling through Facebook and Twitter. It's very impersonal, if you ask me.
As a communicator, there is nothing I enjoy more than a conversation with another human that isn't via text on a phone or computer. Not only are you able to share stories and details with one another in person or hearing a voice, but you're also able to absorb emotions and various tones in speech — two very important parts of communicating.
Other than "LOL" or a frowning emoticon, it's nearly impossible to add emotion to a text conversation. And, it's even more difficult adding emotion to 140 characters.
More importantly, a real conversation shows you care. In a world where everybody thinks they're busier than the next person, a personal call or face-to-face chat can mean so much to a friend.
A good friend and I probably have talked on the phone at least three times a week for the last five or six years. We use that time as an outlet to vent, share work stories, discuss family issues or just chat about nothing in particular. These calls can last a few minutes to sometimes more than two hours. We're usually making dinner, doing laundry or driving when we talk.
But, it's a good release and a great time to get to know my friend even more than I already do. She and I already send e-mails and text messages several times a day, but those forms of communication don't carry the same weight as a phone call.
Texts and e-mails are for short messages, whereas, phone calls should be our first form of communication used with friends.
I don't want to carry an entire conversation via text messages and miss out on more than half of a story and all of the context of it with someone I care for.
But, texting is easy and takes almost no effort. So it's simple to text something like, "How's your day," to a friend, acting as if you're interested, when, in fact, you might have sent the same message to several friends.
I don't consider myself that old-fashioned, but I do expect good conversations and for my friends to generally want to make time to talk with me and hear from me.
Social networking sites can add a dimension to friendships never seen before, but technology hinders our social etiquette, making us think we know our friends.
But, how well do we know our friends offline?
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