It started with an appointment. My son’s behavioral specialist was to go his school to talk to the teacher to observe him on Tuesday, and then come to see me today. On Tuesday afternoon I received a note from the teacher to say the specialist had canceled due to the flu. I, therefore, assumed she wouldn’t be coming here either. Sure enough, I received a phone call this morning from the behavioral specialist’s office. What happened during that phone call is what’s has me… worried? I wouldn’t go that far: thoughtful, perhaps, ever since.
The nice lady who called me only wanted to let me know my appointment was canceled and would be rescheduled. In order to seem, I don’t know, friendly, or sociable, I felt the need to explain that I already knew the behavioral specialist was sick, since she’d canceled Tuesday’s appointment. But even while I was explaining this, my inner editor was screaming at me, “This is not important to the plot! She doesn’t need to know! She’s probably got a dozen more phone calls to make – let her go!” It’s this conciseness with which I feel the need to write, that makes me wonder what it’s doing to me socially.
And isn’t that true for all of us, to some degree? Whether we’re trying to take shortcuts in speech (how many times have you heard someone utter “lol” out loud? Do you do it?) or cutting ourselves short, as I feel I should have done this morning, it has to be affecting the way we socialize. Writing has become the norm, and speech secondary. We spent far fewer hours with pen and keyboard even twenty years ago, unless it was part of our job, versus talking on the phone or in person. Now our lives are largely lived with the written word.
Writing has always been, in a practical way, different from speech. Drafting a formal letter, whether the recipient is a business associate or a lover, is done with care. Choosing the right words is essential to get the point across. With this in mind, are we bloggers actually better at speaking? Has the practice of finding the correct way to say things, and the editing that goes into many of our posts, improved our skills of communication across the board? And have Facebook and Twitter minimalized our speech to the bare necessities?
I have to wonder how we are evolving. And really, that’s what it is. An evolution of mankind who, at one time walked miles to convey a message, now looks no further than his pocket. We’re not quite to the point that our hands get more use than our tongues, but will we, one day, end up with wrists that bend in odd ways, and mouths that are used only to consume food? But I’m getting ahead of myself (and everyone else).
How we socialize with one another–how we communicate–cannot not be affected by what we spend three quarters of our time doing in order to communicate. Small talk is how we connect with one another. It’s how we discover our shared sentiments. It’s what we do on Facebook and Twitter, but without the human interaction–or at the very least it’s human interaction with a machine as a buffer. Will there come a day when we save our small talk only for such situations as taking pictures of our food on social media, and keep our direct interaction as a form of necessity? I think you really have only to look around a restaurant, or peer into people’s kitchens at dinner time these days for the answer.