Feed on

I used to be a phone person. The type of friend who would spend hours chatting about everything and nothing. Conversations could go on for hours, and often did. Then something happened. I got used to speaking to friends via email. I could send out messages in between doing other things and wait for the responses to roll back. Around the same time came instant messaging. Then texts. I could communicate quickly and succinctly. Facebook was the next conversation replacement. It became so much easier to leave a sentence or two on someone’s wall or — if I had a lot to say — send them a private message than it was to pick up the phone. And don’t forget about Twitter. Who needs more than 140 characters anyway?

Tonight, however, it struck me how disconnected I feel having all this technology at my fingertips. (And I say this as a person who makes my living writing about technology and other subjects using technology.) Emails don’t have a cadence and a tone. You can’t hear what they person is leaving off the page — the important stuff. You can’t read between the lines. And it makes it really easy to hide if you’re feeling bad. Add a few exclamation points and a smiley or two and no one knows you’re wallowing.

Facebook is Facebook. Great for looking at people’s photos and hearing about their latest diet success/job gripe/cute kid story, but terrible when it comes to being able to hear how someone is getting on in life. (Yes, there are serial sharers out there, but the majority of people keep it light.) And Twitter. Ahh, Twitter. Despite the fact that I’ve seen plenty of amazing sharing and interaction, you’re never going to learn about someone’s inner dreams and heartaches from a quick sentence and a link to another blog. Oh, yes, and I forgot the blogging thing. Sure, you’re reading this, but unless you’re writing a really long comment, I don’t really know how you’re feeling, do I? Blogging is just a long form email making everyone one of us who writes an exhibitionist and those of us who read voyeurs.

Of course, it’s not all technology’s fault. Many of my long nights on the phone were facilitated by the fact that none of us had any kids back then. Plus, everyone in my social circle seemed to stay up all night just like I do. Now people get up by 6:30, and we’re all too tired to chat on the phone from 11 p.m. until 1 a.m. We’re all lazy, too. What’s easier? Watching Survivor or talking about why I want to be numbed by Survivor?

I do blame technology for letting lazy translate as connected. My friends might actually call me on my lack of response if they didn’t get an email or post from me. But they do, and because so many of us think of email and social media as the equivalent of personal contact it’s easy to get social points for a quick text-based check-in.

This is why, starting now, I am going to make a huge effort to reach out and touch everyone the old fashioned way. Editors, friends, family members, acquaintances: You’re all forewarned. I’m going to put you back on speed dial. But don’t worry, thank goodnesss there’s always voice mail if you’re too busy to talk.

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