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.

The National Day of Prayer Observance

Today the people of the North County came together in the Paso Robles city park to observe the National Day of Prayer. It was hot out — even when I arrived early at 5:30. I didn’t have a chair, so I sat on the grass. But I’m glad I went.

Today the people of the North County came together in the Paso Robles city park to observe the National Day of Prayer. It was hot out — even when I arrived early at 5:30. I didn’t have a chair, so I sat on the grass. But I’m glad I went. At first I thought I didn’t know another soul there.

That didn’t make a difference, though, since you don’t have to know each other to pray together. The Master Chorale sang for a few minutes before the meeting started, and that in itself made sitting on the ground worthwhile.

When the Chorale finished, three people and their instruments led the entire group in singing songs I didn’t know. Then the first of many pastors — none of which I knew — got up and explained the format. Each pastor would lead one segment by reading a passage from the Bible and directing us to pray alone or with a small group on the topic he read about. Then the pastor would close that topic with a group prayer. He would be followed by another pastor, and so on, until we were through. The segments were praying for our government and its leaders; for our military families; for education; for businesses; and for families. Then we all joined in singing a rousing praise song. That was the official end of the meeting.

It was far from the end for me. The Chorale started singing again right afterwards. Their music was like a taste of Heaven. Their faces were radiant. And only a few scattered people of all those milling around were paying any attention to them. People continued their conversations through this live performance without even moving farther away from the bandstand to allow those around them  to hear. I wondered what had happened to common courtesy. Perhaps  people are so used to constant sound from their various media, that they hardly are aware of what they hear. Perhaps it hadn’t registered that they were ignoring real people who were singing their hearts out for a group that largely seemed unaware of them. Their smiles and the light in their eyes didn’t fade. It occurred to me that they were singing for a higher audience who was listening from the heavens. They were making an offering of their music whether it was appreciated by other humans or not.

After they had stopped singing, I went up to thank them and tell them the truth — I haven’t heard such music in years. Their singing had transformed my rather gray mood into a new feeling that maybe God was forcing me to the end of my rope to take me into a new place I’d really rather be. There is nothing like music to lift one’s spirit!

One member of the Chorale came up to me and said he had focused on me for the entire concert because he knew I was really listening. I told him what a blessing the music had been. That led to talk about music and history. I finally found somone else who knew the last verse to the national anthem and the third verse of “America the Beautiful.” I think a new friendship has been born.

Footnote:  When I turned around after the official end of the meeting, I discovered my own pastor and our youth pastor were both sitting behind me. A little later on, two people I knew from the home schooling group in our city whom I hadn’t seen in years came up to say hi. So I did know other people; I just didn’t know they were there.