A Calm Storm

The blog of Sholeh Samadani Munion


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?


6 thoughts on “Incommunicado

  1. A couple of years ago a friend of mine lost internet in his house, so we decided to start sending each other letters. This lasted for a while after he got internet back, and I think that it definitely strengthened our long distance friendship.
    I think that this issue is interesting from a Baha’i perspective, where our numbers are so limited and we all have a tendency to spread ourselves all over the globe. I haven’t had a really close Baha’i friend who lived close by since I was 13, and it is my ability to maintain relationships easily with people who live far away that has really helped me to stay anchored in that community. Of course, this absolutely isn’t ideal, but I take what I can get.

    On a completely unrelated note, I go to school with Anna Quindlen’s son. I once went to a play in which he got completely naked on stage, and Anna Quindlen was sitting right behind me. I don’t think that he has issues with being faceless. Or anything else-less.

  2. I was just talking about this tonight, actually. Everybody has their AIM friends, their MySpace friends, and their cell phone list, but how many people know their neighbors? You know, the people across the street? In our quest for convienice we are also lending ourselves to extreme selectivity in our friendships, and I think it’s behind a lot of social misunderstanding these days.

    I don’t know where my philosophorant is going, except that, contrary to matronly advice, maybe we -should- talk to strangers once in a while. Can’t hurt, hm?

  3. All valid questions, and something our generation gets the privilege of sorting out. Glad that you took the time to blog that article. I like how your friend has struck a balance by abstaining from the internet once a week. I think weekends free from it might emerge as a trend.

    And I really like the new site design!

  4. i totally agree with all being said! especially the part about quality sacrificed for speed, and about not knowing our neighbors, although, i would add-how well do we know our AIM friends as well? all these new-fangled communication techniques are impeding our work towards unity, i think…plus, i just feel devalued when i am with a person who can’t stop texting or answering their phone…grr. arr.
    course, this is more i’ve said to you here, sholeh, than i did when i saw you in person last….the irony. let’s do coffee. in person. wiht our phones off. talk. love!

  5. Sarah: hahaha anything-less…Also, I totally agree about the whole “maintaining a link to the community” thing. It is almost necessary if we want to have Baha’i friendships when isolated.

    Joe: yeah, I was really happy last summer when I finally met my neighbors at a block party. It is so strange to me (as a adamantly southern girl at heart) that I don’t know or SEE my neighbors!

    Leslie: I agree…I feel devalued when I am spending time with someone and they are constantly answering their phone or utilizing some kind of technology to the detriment of our time together. Re: coffee- RIGHT ON. With phones off. Lets do that.

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