Anna Quindlen’s Newsweek article, The Face In The Crowd, talks about the facelessness of today’s communication experience.
She notes that, “A face-to-face meeting often means the difference between understanding and estrangement.” How often do we send an email or a text message and the meaning is misunderstood? How many flame wars have started and friendships damaged because people can’t hear the inflection in a voice or see someone’s facial expression?
The other part of the article that I appreciate is the concept that we are not allowed to have time to ourselves anymore:
“So many of the old conventions have gone the way of the TV antenna—privacy, downtime, the line between work life and home life that was once delineated by the ride on the train or the closing of the apartment door.”
My cell phone is always next to me (as many of my friends and relatives can attest). The insistent ringing of the phone, the alert that I have email, or the buzzing of a text message all make me leap toward the offending bit of electronic equipment to respond. I have to make an effort not to answer my phone, instead of the other way around.
The expectation by others that I will always be available is fueled by my behavior, of course, but I also believe it is quickly becoming a societal virus. We expect instant gratification, but I think that our expectations are lowered, as well. Quality is sacrificed for speed.
Although I have both feet firmly planted in the modern world of communication, I still like to reach back to postcards, letters, and packages as a way of maintaining truer friendships and relationships with relatives. Everyone loves getting tangible letters in the mail…but can you remember the last letter you got that someone spent time writing?
I have one friend that takes time away from the internet for an evening or weekend. She doesn’t log on to check anything…it is a way for her to maintain a focus on the real world, I think. The times I have done this I have felt a sense of freedom from stress and the demands of others.
One of my closest friends is overseas right now, studying abroad. The other day we were surprised to learn how much we depend on each other for solid advice, support, and understanding. She and I have had to learn how to maintain a friendship as she first moved across the country, then across the world. Our friendship is not based superficialities…we talk about all kinds of subjects and do service in the Faith. She is one of those friends that will tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. I feel blessed that I have so many people in my life that have these attributes.
There are times that I find myself stretched too thin between friends. How many people can one person maintain true, lasting friendships with? How has our definition of friendship changed with the advent of the internet and the way people constantly change locations? Do we take our friends for granted because it is easier to create new friendships, since we are no longer limited to the people that live in our town?