What’s Happening to Communication?

What’s happening to personal communication? Will Facebook, Twitter, and texting limit the exchange of complex ideas?

I read in this morning’s paper that Facebook is aiming to make email obsolete in personal communication. Supposedly we are too busy to exchange long personal email and phone calls. Instead, we will tweet, email, and text short bits, and send all these communications to our Facebook page at the same time in a sort of one-click publishing  communication.

I’m wondering what has happened to thinking and real heart-to-heart or mind-to-mind communication. Must all our thoughts be reduced to 140 characters more or less? Perhaps the ugliness on the political scene is related to posting propaganda and talking points in 30 second sound bites and tweets thrown out at the world to whomever will listen instead of engaging each other in thoughtful face-to-face conversations.

Perhaps we do the same thing in personal conversations with family and friends. We laugh at the Zits comic strip as family members text each other, or text someone else while someone in the same room is attempting to have a conversation. But it really isn’t funny. People are tuning out those who are present in favor of those who are absent.

Supposedly the schools are trying to teach critical  thinking skills, but where do you use them in a Tweet or a Facebook post? Complex thoughts need complex sentences. Have our attention spans become so short we haven’t time for complex thoughts? For more than surface communication? No wonder people  cannot solve problems or reach consensus. It takes more than a few Tweets.

Spam Rant

Sorting thorugh my spam folder is getting more time consuming than ever. It used to be that I could spot spam immediately by the subject header or return address. But now the spammers have gone on all-out attack with some of the following subject headers:

Important Message

Your order

Delivery Status Notification

Order Status

RE: I just received your email.

Some of these I can still easily delete without opening because the return address is an invalid one from my own domain. But since I do send a lot of emails in response to email inquiries from customers, when I get a delivery status notification I have to check and make sure my reply to a customer didn’t bounce.  Same with “I just received your email” and similar headings that might be from customers whose email addresses I might not remember, but rarely are. I have prepared automatic headers I will recognize from people who click links on my web site to email me, but a few customers have changed it in the past and I almost missed them.  So, I continue to scan the headers of about 300-500 messages in my spam and junk folders everyday so that I don’t miss the one valid email I need to get.

What I don’t understand is how these spammers get enough of the desired responses to make this a profitable business for them. Are there that many people out there so unhappy with their physical features who are also gullible enough to believe that these spammers will help them improve themselves or their love lives? Are people so desparate to make a fortune in a week or a month that they will respond to all those “get rich quick” emails? Do that many people want to buy drugs on line — or insurance, car warranties, and refinancing — and actually trust these sites to deliver the goods?

Then there are the off-the-wall headlines! These relate mostly to prominent politicians or celebrities or untrue disasters or terror attacks. Examples of these are subjects such as “Another Child for Brangelina?” or Sarah Palin just filed for divorce (I made that one up as an example) or _______ was just assassinated (you fill in the blank — the name varies). I suspect some of these lead to viruses if you click on any links.

What is interesting about spam is what it reveals about human nature,  It is assumed by the spammers that men are lecherous or  insecure about their manhood (or ought to be.) It’s assumed that women will do anything to improve their appearance. Another assumption is that we all want to make a fast buck with little effort, that we all need to refinance or extend car warranties, and that we live vicariously through celebrities. And, of course, we all want to be the first to know any bad news.

Some “spam” is legitimate, even though unwelcome. It is easy to delete and for me, at least, does not constitute the bulk of what’s in the spam folder. Some of it is targeted to my business interests — getting more web traffic, special sales from companies I have done business with, etc.

What I’d like to know is if there is a better way to manage it. So far training my spam filters by marking emails as spam or junk isn’t working well. And since I never know a customer’s email address before she makes an inquiry, I can’t add it to my address book before getting that first email. So address book based systems seem to be out. Filtering by words in subject lines just motivates them to come up with new words I can’t afford to filter out, such as “order.” And the return address in the “from” header is usually fake or only going to be used once.

If any of you reading this has found an anti-spam method that does not inconvenience a first-time customer with going to a web site to type in letters to prove he’s real, and your method doesn’t filter out people who aren’t in your address book, I’d really like to know about it. I’d appreciate your comments below. But please, no spam.