OR Has Technology Really Improved Whether or Not we Understand Each Other?

I try not to have conversations via text message. I find text messages useful to confirm a meeting place and time, to let someone know you got home all right and to let someone know you are thinking about them. The moment however when circumstances create a more complex interaction, a meeting that is difficult to coordinate, a discussion about values, an expression of feelings I find text messages often further complicate what may already be an interaction prone to miscommunication.

I wonder though, is it the text message that is the problem or at the point that text messages are being used to convey deep thoughts and relay important information has communication already broken down. Is the text message a tool that is still functioning, but being used in a way incompatible with its usefulness? If this is the case, how does one stop perpetuating this misuse to get back on track to deep and meaningful communication?

Example: Attempting to make plans, but because of scheduling, conflicting desires, etc. plans do not get made or become so complex that both parties are drained before they even see each other, or run on until someone in the planning feels that they have been slighted and undervalued.

I am sure there are so many more instances where a quick phone call would have solved the problem of the confusion resulting from too many texts. And maybe this is the simple answer in many circumstances. Is there however another situation where the phone call does not happen for other reasons? Does text messaging become primary means of conversation in order to keep one's contacts at a distance? Typing into a phone removes the human element. There is no voice, nothing messy that can be revealed. This is the inherent problem I find in text messages. Since the messages cannot get messy, when we as people do they are inadequate to communicate this, except in a way that is useless because of the disconnection between the two involved in the interaction. When face to face what the text message has said is very different said in person.

Technology then has added another tool to the ways in which we are able to communicate. We as humans are still imperfect, however and even though we are looking to connect, explain and express what we have experienced, know and feel to others it is not always so simple. What each of us communicates is unique and there will always be other ways to interpret what we say. Being able to understand this differing perspective, being able to care for another speaking the same language, being able to anticipate different ways we will be interpreted, which is unavoidable because we are each individuals speaking what may be the same language, but never with exactly the same meaning. This is the beauty in the way we live, but also the cause of suffering. How then do we take the time to ensure we are really hearing what another is saying and not just what we would mean by the words that they have spoken (or typed). And this is where I see the problem with text messages. In order to really hear what another means, we need to use our other senses. We need to hear the inflection in their voice, we need to see the expression on their face, their body language, feel what they are expressing with their heart and maybe most importantly, their reaction to what we say to them. All of this is impossible in a text message.

All in all, technology is great. It provides additional tools to use to communicate, but in the end it does not help us understand each other any better and may damage communication if we are not careful.