Happy Faces On My Cell Phone
I like to talk. Some say I talk too much; my mother and brother especially do. I talk to anyone who wants to listen. Often I go into senseless rants about nothing. Other times I surprise myself and say something really smart sounding. If you give me the opportunity I will talk you to sleep and talk you out off it. The point is I do not know when to shut my mouth. I however dislike talking over the phone, cell phone or otherwise, internet forums, internet chat rooms, e-mail, etc. Or rather I dislike not talking with someone face to face.
I use e-mail and phones when necessary. If I only need to give out or receive basic information these forms of communication suffice. No need to drive tenms just to ask my doctor when my next physical is. The same goes for ordering pizza or setting a hang-out date with my friends. When I need to get a point across a face to face meeting is a must. I think of it this way: “If you need to say it to me say it to my face”. I do not mean it in any particularly hostile manner; I am just saying that if what you need to tell me is important you will say it to me in person.
“We live in an instant grading society. We’ve been conditioned to think that we can take a pill, buy an exercise machine, some tapes, or a self-study computer course to learn a foreign language and speak Spanish, German, or French like a diplomat ‘after six easy lessons. ” (Bachus: 28) Convenments change the way we do things and have effect on our lives. Think about not having things like washer machines and microwaves. These two things change the way we go about our daily lives. I am certain two generations ago people viewed washing their clothes much differently than we do now. Conveniences however tend to come with a higher cost than their monetary value. A washer machine makes doing laundry simple; in the process it uses up electricity and dumps chemicals into the sewers.
Something very important gets lost in translation when not in person. In fact several things are lost on the receiving end of the communiqué when the recipient is receiving the message through means other than the sender self. I used the word translation because, when for example you talk on the phone, your words are not only transmitted across to the recipients, your words morph in meaning. The recipient might get a different meaning from what you say than what was intended.
This next anecdote illustrates how information can not only be misinterpreted. Information when not delivered in person can be misleading to the recipient.
I was totally unprepared the first time I saw Freddie Mercury’s performance at Wimbley Stadium back in ’86. No, unfortunately I was not there to personally whiteness this spectacle; I saw the video about a year ago on Youtube.com. That day Freddie, front man of the rock band Queen wave a performance which is still regarded as one of the best displays of showmanship and raw singing ability ever displayed in the rock and roll world. I became an instant fan after the first time watching this video.
While watching the video for what must have been at least the tenth time I realized I had never heard of Freddie Mercury before. A quick search online wave me a small shock; Freddie was gay and had died in 1991 from AIDS. I then came to a realization: I had began to idolize a long dead, gay, rock star who was a member of a band that has not been mainstream since the late 80s. I had been so into the performance while watching the video I never stopped to realize just how long ago this video had been recorded. The lead guitarist’s long hair should have been a dead giveaway.
What else had I missed in the video? After watching it again I came to a second, more thought provoking, realization: Watching this video can not ever compare to having actually been there, even with all the cool close-ups. Even if I watched the video a million times and listened to every single Queen song ever written it can not compare to ever having been to a Queen concert in person. What I had viewed on the web was not a Queen concert, it was a video featuring a Queen concert from 2 decades ago.
My point is that it does not matter that I got a message; my understanding of the message was manipulated by the communication method, in this case Youtube.com.
“Language is best viewed as part of a broader communication system that draws not only on the speaker’s emotions but also on gesture, stance, facial expression, effective display and other factors that contribute to successful interactions – successful in that speakers achieve their goals in conveying their intended meaning to their addressees. ” (Clark: 26) If this is true then it is safe to assume that when communicating with someone not in your immediate presence communication is less than 100% effective.
I believe more than just information is lost in the exchange however, meaning is lost. If you have ever had an argument with a friend over the phone you now what I mean. It is much easier to yell and get yelled at while talking over the phone. Similarly, telling someone you love them is much easier over the phone or in an e-mail than it is in person. Somehow not having to be in the other persons presence makes us feel somewhat less responsible for what we say than if we had said the exact same things in person.
Is it that we are cowards? No, I do not believe so. I think it is simply that this way is more convenient for us. “Why walk when you can ride” as they say. If you ride too much however you might find that you have gained weight. Sometimes just because doing something the convenient way seems easier it does not mean it is correct way do so.
A picture may be worth a thousand words but I believe presence is worth at least a million words. We embrace technology but we must remember that technology is not capable of reciprocating. Technology is a powerful tool at humanities disposal. When technology is utilized properly its productivity limits may only be measured by the imaginations of the users.
We must be careful not to rely on technology too heavily though or we run the risk of letting it define our existences. Technology by definition is a something to make our lives easier, not a replacement for living life.
No time speaking to someone over the phone can equivalent looking into that other persons face and just knowing that they understand; that they recognize not only you words but your existence.
And so to end this rant I will leave you with this thought: If it where not for all of the technology at my disposal, I would never have the time to think about all of technologies current shortcomings or its misuses. I would have also never discovered Queen. If it where not for long distance phone calls I would never have to speak to my mother back home. She would not like that.