We live in a digital world, and apparently we like to communicate electronically. A lot. I’m not against texting or emailing (I use both every day), but I am concerned that it’s become the primary way of communicating our thoughts and feelings.
Too many have forgotten how to practice the art of face-to-face dialog, and it’s hurting our relationships.
According to the nerds who research this kind of stuff, there are well over 100 billion emails sent and received each and every day worldwide, and 8.3 trillion text messages sent every year. That's almost 23 billion messages per day (Portio Research).
In many ways, technology has enhanced our lives (click here for a blog about that fact). This is not a rant about texting while driving into a ditch. And I’m not going to complain about spam (when grilled with eggs, I actually like it).
This post is about how digital communication can harm your relationships because it’s a vastly inferior way to communicate your emotions, opinions, or your state of mind.
To begin with, body language and tone are a huge part of effective communication. Obviously, even if you use the vast array of emoticons, it’s still difficult to accurately convey feelings via a 140-character text or even a lengthy email. Frankly, most of us (myself included) aren’t good enough as writers to depend solely on our writing ability as the primary means of sharing our hearts.
And the eyes truly are the window to the soul, but when you write a text or email, no one can see into your inner person. There is something powerful about eye-to-eye contact with another human. Texts and email lack the potential for personal or heartfelt interaction.
On a more technical point, did you know that digital things do get lost in space? Texts, emails, and Facebook messages are not certified mail. There is no guarantee from anyone, including Google or Yahoo, that your messages always will be delivered. (Think I'm wrong? Check out this discussion forum site and you'll see it's a growing problem.) So if what you wrote in an email is important, I wouldn’t recommend it as your only or even your primary means of communication.
This past weekend I sent an urgent email to a friend. I’ve sent him emails many times before to the same email address. I asked him to respond just to make sure he got it. He didn’t get it, and the email never got returned to me as undeliverable. It didn’t go to his Spam file either (he checked); it did not get delivered even though it was in my sent folder. It happens. Imagine what could have happened if I had assumed he’d gotten the email.
I found out recently that a couple left our church because they were offended that I never replied to an email they sent me. I assure you, I never received it. How sad that they made a life changing decision because they presumed I had.
Let me say it again; email is NOT certified mail. So if your message is important, you should follow it up with a call or, better yet, a face-to-face conversation (what a concept).
Speaking of Facebook, I discovered yesterday that Facebook can filter your messages. Like most mail servers, Facebook can decide if a message is spam (even if it’s from a friend). Unless you go to your “filtered file” (good luck finding it), you’ll fail to see stuff that you may not want to miss.
I had over forty messages in my filtered file, and many of them were from people who now probably think I’m a jerk for never replying. (Find out more here about this Facebook practice.) I love Facebook, but I’m not a fan of Messenger. Where’s that angry face emoji?
Here’s my point: Electronic messaging, in all its various forms, works well for communicating facts and general information. However, it is sorely lacking when it comes to expressing your thoughts and feelings in a relationship, and delivery is never guaranteed.
If what you want to say matters, say it, don’t send it. It’s better to pick up the phone or sit down for a chat over coffee.
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