A few weeks ago, I was out at a restaurant and eavesdropping like I was getting paid for it. What can I say? I was bored. On one side of me, a middle-aged couple were emailing on their iPhones. Nothing wrong with that...until I overheard their conversation with the bartender. "You guys haven't looked up since you got here...are you both playing games on your phone?"
The woman dragged her eyes away from the screen. "No, emailing."
"That's a lot of emailing. How 'bout you, you emailing too?" he asked, turning to her husband.
He grinned sheepishly. "Uh, yeah. I'm emailing her."
"Seriously? You guys are sitting here, together, emailing each other? Haven't you ever heard of this new thing they call...oh wait, what is it again? Oh, yeah. Talking? You ever heard of that?"
I bit my lip to hold back a chuckle, and refocused my attention on another table of young men, sitting directly behind me. They, too, were on their phones, and they were engaged in serious contemplation.
"Just look. Look at this text. Rude, or not? I thought she was good with everything, and then I saw this text. I think she's being a bitch? I can't tell?"
His friend scrolled back through the conversation. "Nah, I think she's being funny...I think? Was she mad when you left?"
"I didn't think so. But this text has a bitchy tone, don't you think? It's not the words, it's the tone. She's being rude."
"Dude, how the hell can you figure out her tone through a text? There is no tone in texting, it's just words!"
As I sipped my drink, I thought about how different life is now than it was just a few short years ago. Ok, maybe more like 25 years ago, but still. I remember arguing with my sister over quality time with our rotary phone, because I couldn't bear to go without hearing the sound of my friends' voices for longer than a day. And, then, after the call was over, I would actually go out and see my friends...in person! I would chat with them using my mouth, and they would use their mouths to respond. If someone was angry, or sad, or nervous, I could discern this through their expressions...and then gear my conversation accordingly. Seeing someone's face makes it a lot easier to avoid misunderstandings in communication. There's also no text substitute for a sympathetic glance or a hug during a rough time. I'm sorry, but :( just doesn't always cut it.
This isn't to say that I'm not equally guilty of replacing human contact with technology. My iPhone doesn't leave my side, and I sleep with my iPad snuggled up next to me like an insecure lover. I'm a champion texter, and can converse with five people at a time while simultaneously drafting an email. Still, there truly is no substitute for the sound of a human voice, or a glimpse of a friend's face. I don't know about everyone else, but texting tends to drain me. I can have a reasonably engaging conversation going on, but I still feel just a little tired afterward...and I'm not talking about the dreaded finger fatigue. When I have a good conversation face-to-face, or even via phone, I feel energized, lighter, connected. Real conversation is a give-and-take; there is an exchange of energy. You put your energy, your ideas out there, there is a back and forth volley, and you end it feeling somehow revitalized. When I converse via text or email, it simply feels like giving, without replenishment.
Does anyone else feel this way?