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Interpersonal communication in a digital age

In his Jan. 26 post, fellow blogger Cory Garrison wrote about his recent experience of receiving aBlog personalized note.

“E-mail, though convenient, is absolutely no substitute for a personalized handwritten note,” Garrison wrote.

Does the digital age in which we live, allowing human beings to communicate with so many people, so readily, actually help or hinder the development of relationships?

Though there has been much discourse on the subject during the last several years, I’ve yet to form a solid opinion on the subject, and can empathize with both schools of thought.

And though I’m not ready to fully weigh in on the matter, here are a few things I’ve been considering.

  • For those of us old enough to remember a time before the Internet, how does the way we form and build relationships differ from the past?
  • Has the advent of the World Wide Web and mobile connectivity, which gives us more opportunities to connect with others on many different levels, bolstered interpersonal communication or somehow cheapened it?
  • Have we grown too dependent on cellular phones and e-mail to communicate with others? And do these devices discourage people from taking the time to really think through what they may want to say or write? (I once heard that whenever Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter, he would set it on his desk at night and sleep before deciding whether to mail it off in the morning).
  • Do we become dismayed when we don’t receive an immediate response to an e-mail, a text message or a voicemail? In other words, do these instruments lend themselves to a desire to be instantly gratified, hampering the virtue of patience?
  • How do social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter lend themselves to the phenomenon? Does our ability to continually view the tweets and status updates of our “followers” and “friends” everyday somehow make us feel justified or less inclined to contact them through traditional means?

Like many people, I don’t have a home phone anymore. Instead, I rely on my cell and can’t imagine going a day without it. I also send and receive countless e-mails everyday.

I was well into my twenties before ever having either instrument.

I also enjoy using my Facebook page as it allows me to interact and keep up to speed with what’s going on in the lives of friends and associates who I don’t get to spend as much time with as I would like.

I have no doubt about the usefulness and necessity of these means of communication. In fact, as the online editor of a publishing company, I use them constantly in the course of my work, which, by the way, brings a great deal of fulfillment into my life.

And I’m certain they are here to stay.

“It’s unfortunate, but as technology grows so does the distance between us as professionals. Between email, cell phones, text messaging and social media we seem to have forgotten the art of writing,” Garrison wrote.

And before reading his post last week, I penned a letter on stationary for the first time in many months, with the exception of a handful of greeting cards, and hand delivered it.

And it felt great.

As society’s dependence on these tools continues to grow and evolve, where do you fit into the spectrum?

-Todd Razor


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