In my favourite ever T.V. show, Boston Legal, there is a character named Jerry who has Asbergers (aspergers) syndrome. This is a form of autism that delays the developments of many basic skills including the ability to socialise with others and have effortless conversations. Throughout the series Jerry, an incredible legal mind, struggles to become a better Lawyer as his disorder makes it difficult to act in the social way that many Lawyers require. However, there is one scene, in which he makes an incredibly moving closing argument stating that because of technology and his own imposed personal isolation he once phoned a hotline so that he could hear someone, anyone’s, voice and this is what saved his life. Seems unbelievable and completely pointless me mentioning this, right?
Wrong. Today if I do not go to work and if I do not go to Uni, I would not have an personal communication with others. I could isolate myself in my room and no one would have to talk to me personally. I could conduct all my interactions through a cold, hard, black screen. I wouldn’t have to engage with any humans. In the absence of a person, life can be conducted through a screen. I could text family to enquire into their wellbeing, I could email lecturers to ask for advice on any great number of issues and I could even have a fully-fledged relationship online (were I not already happily in a fully-fledged off line relationship). Life can now entirely be conducted online, which begs the question, what’s happening to communication in the real world?
We’ve all heard the stereotype of the computer geek that spends so much time online that when they do get into the real world the result is a horrendous social awkardness. Nowadays, the prevalence of text, email and social media means that this isn’t too far from being everyman’s reality. I am perfectly comfortable debating difficult points and having difficult conversations if they are through social media or over text or email. However, put the same tricky problems to me in person and I don’t have a bloody clue because I can’t think of responses and make the same points on the spot because I am so used to having the time to construct precise arguments. The problem is I am not alone and this is not the lone problem of one socially awkward twenty-something. More and more people now refuse to answer calls due to anxieties with actually speaking to people, and people are quite comfortable sending ‘risky texts’ that they either can’t or won’t say in person. The online world makes it easy to have confidence, but also easy to lose the art of personal communications.
The media these days enjoys telling us that people are now having more and more conversations on line and as a result real, personal, physical communication is dying a slow and painful death. New forms of communication have developed whole new languages comprising of abbreviations, acronyms and emojis, with letters to signify emotional and physical touches. As a result they lack the necessity of communication that is looking someone in the eye, or being able to offer a hug and the support of a touch when it is warranted and needed.
The question becomes where will this end? Will there become a point in our lives where technology makes it so easy to isolate ourselves that it is no longer necessary to have any ‘real life’ interactions? If this is the case, count me out because that actually terrifies me.
Imagine a world where a person cannot hear their friends voices, or feel their comforting arms wrap around them when it is necessary. Imagine a world where the only personal comfort that can be offered is as an ‘x’ and where kind words are seen on a cold screen, not delivered with the syrup of a friendly human voice.. There’s no idea that scares me so much as the de-personalisation of personal communication, and the way I see it, communication is headed down a very slippery slope if people cannot communicate face to face. If there is no personal communication, we might all one day be come Jerry’s reaching out to hear a recorded voice just to break the isolation that we have let technology create.