Communication ≠ Conversation

Communication ≠ Conversation

With the ever-growing presence of technology in our lives, it is becoming increasingly harder to have a conversation with a person without some electronic information exchange involved. In an article in The Atlantic, Megan Garber shares her interaction with Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and a professor at MIT. Turkle talks about the difference between communication and information exchange and having a real conversation.

Think about any meaningful personal interaction you’ve had. There was probably an ebb and flow to the movement of the words being spoken. There were likely lulls in the conversation; but there were also moments of excitement! Emotions are easily expressed when face-to-face with someone. Now imagine that conversation had taken place via text message. The same information would have been exchanged, but that would not have been a conversation, in the way that Turkle is describing.

While the ultimate goal is face-to-face interaction, I believe that the process leading up to that meeting is just as important. If you want to see a friend do you call them, text them, or merely show up at their door? If you are interested in a person romantically, how do you facilitate dates? One USA Today study found that approximately one third of both men and women prefer to ask for a date via text. 25% of people believe that an acceptable amount of time to wait for a text from someone you are romantically involved with is no longer than one hour. Let me stress that. One. Hour. Are people so attached to their smart phones that anything longer than a one-hour response time becomes unacceptable?

Part of getting to know someone, romantically or otherwise, and continuing a relationship of any kind is the sometimes awkward first stages of connecting, learning each other’s quirks, and accepting a person for who they are. With the ability to edit text messages, making them sound “perfect,” as many are wont to do, comes the loss of personal interaction, and any real sense of who an individual is. I’ve seen both girls and guys analyzing a text to the point of tears; “Do you think he likes me?” “What does this text mean?” and “Do you think she’s really angry or is she joking?” are questions I’ve heard countless times. Without the ability to express emotion, as in conversation, the likelihood of a text being misinterpreted becomes far greater. Relationships both start and end via text, which, in my opinion, is absurd. Are relationships really so disposable that they don’t even warrant a phone call anymore?

The presence of cell phones in our lives is undeniable, and is sapping the life out of relationships of all kinds. I’ve seen (and been on) dates or out with friends where at least one person, if not everyone in the group was on their phone. Personal interaction is being exchanged for whatever happens to be on our screens at that moment. We need to get back to the basics: the kind of conversations that Sherry Turkle describes. Talking face-to-face. Being both physically and mentally present when you’re spending time with someone. Turning your phone off when you’re with family, friends, or a significant other. I promise, the world won’t stop turning if you don’t answer your e-mail immediately.

Posted by Kaitlyn Payne

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