Recently I got into what I would consider a very big argument over an intant message session. I let it go for a while, but later pleaded to shelf the conversation until we could talk about it face-to-face. I had to ask three times in the conversation prior to their agreeing shelf the conversation. Not that the conversation was actually 'shelved'...instead they declared themselves right and aborted the whole conversation, but that is another story.
The experience underscored the thought that had we been face to face, the other party wouldn't have taken every comment the same way that they did. In other words, some comments I hoped to be a 'shocker' weren't responded to at all, and other comments meant to be positive were instead spun into something extremely negative. These misinterpretations of conversational English probably wouldn't have happened had we been face-to-face.
If you have read my articles in the past or talked to me, it is no secret that I think online social networking is a detriment to people and relationships. I think that they tend to spred effort put into relationships so thin that there really is little to no substance in what remains. And they whittle conversation down to just shallow quips and speed comments, rather than having a developing conversation.
To attempt to avoid a lot of the poor relationships that are indicative of our fast-paced, enterprenurial, soul-mate, tweeting, poor English skills society...I've personally jumped off the Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. bandwagons. A friend of mine in Vancouver, BC asked me if I was becoming a Luddite...and in the end perhaps he is correct about that. Because here I am dropping another technology, at least for not on a trial basis...but I'm feeling a lot of freedom in this so far. I'm dropping instant messaging services, such as Google Talk and AOL Instant Messenger, and of course Microsoft Communicator at work.
There is a degree of irony in communication now. I've been carrying a cell-phone nearly 24/7 for years now. But since I've bailed from Facebook and Twitter I have actually receive comments from people about how I'm difficult to get ahold of. Did they suddenly forget that they have my number in their phone? Now that I've jumped off of instant messenger people have again mentioned that I'm hard to reach. Again...got the cell phone in my pocket!
So...I'm still just as available in the world. I answer e-mails. I answer phone calls. I like when people drop by my house just because they wanted to see me. I like getting snail-mail letters! At that one you might go...argh...why? I like these 'older' communication means because they require effort and intention. Twitter and Facebook have made relience on convenience a reality, and have removed the intentional nature of maintaining relationships. They have made keeping up with people into a non-active news-feed.
I would much rather see the person who is down the hall, or a 5-minute drive away...rather than be texting them or e-stalking their status. I want people to drop be unannounced. I want to hear their voice, and not just see 140 characters in a blurb.
The teaching pastor of the church I am going to is on vacation right now. I had forgotten that he was going to do that and gave him a call. On his message he said that he was away on vacation and he would not have phone-service, no Twitter, no Facebook, no texting, no instant messages, no e-mail, etc. I found myself smiling at his message, and pleased that he would indeed choose to take a holiday and not be available. I hope that people miss him and long for his return from sabbatical...because it becomes easy to take people's availability for granted with all the immediate access communication tools we abuse in this day and age.