I get all nostalgic about the old AT&T (or was it Bell Telephone?) commercial encouraging us to "reach out and touch someone" with a phone call. I can't help but think that Alexander Graham Bell is rolling over in his grave these days. With the rise in popularity of texting and e-mails and smartphones, there is an alarming decline in interpersonal communication skills.
I could cop out and point a finger at my daughter's generation, but you know what? They never had the skills to begin with - this environment is all that most of them have ever known. I put the responsibility for this decline squarely on the shoulders of anyone age 40 or older. We know better. We know what it means to actually hear the person's voice on the other end of the line. We know the value of being able to ascertain the emotions coming from that person. How many times do we have to have an e-mail or text message misinterpreted before we just cave in and dial the phone number and open our mouths. Sure, we might not say something exactly right, but at least we would have the opportunity to elaborate.
It's a vicious cycle. We all get into the habit of texting and emailing. We come to the point where we'd like to get something resolved quickly, but we don't want to "bother" the person by calling him or her. So we send an e-mail and wait impatiently, fuming when the person doesn't respond. Then we send the person a text. Why didn't the person respond to the text?, we ask ourselves. Maybe the topic is uncomfortable for the person and he or she is struggling to respond, or who knows, maybe our smartphones are not as smart as we think they are. Ultimately, I've observed this pattern and. more importantly, I've been guilty of doing it - frequently. I often waste hours doing nothing but deliberating in my mind about whether or not to just bite the bullet and make the call. My favorite stupid action that I like to employ - sending the person a text message asking "can I call you?". Hilarious when you stop and think about it.
The irony of this "evolution" is that in the old days, you would call someone, and if they didn't answer, you just hung up and tried again later. Then came answering machines, and this would seem to be the best of both worlds. At least you were getting through to the other person somehow. Either way, there was no instant communication, and we were all ok with that, because that's just the way it was.
Go ahead..... reach out and touch someone. It won't kill you, I promise.