Her suggested headline:
Communication has skyrocketed over the past few decades. Gone are the days when we stayed home so as not to miss an important phone call or eagerly awaited mail from loved ones. Now we email, tweet, text, skype and post on Facebook to produce an unprecedented volume of communication that is both beneficial and problematic.
The benefits are obvious. We are able to keep track of people on a daily basis with whom we might otherwise lose touch. We can call for emergency assistance from almost anywhere. We can reach greater productivity at work. We are able to give and get lots of information quickly, but at what cost to effective, meaningful communication? Modern communication poses several problems.
Meaning. The meaning transmitted from any interaction is based primarily on facial expressions and body language (55 percent), then tone of voice (38 percent) and lastly, the words themselves (7 percent). At least with phone calls we are only missing a little over half of what is being communicated; with emails, texts, tweets and Facebook messages we may be losing over 90 percent of the intended message. Without the non-verbal clues, we can easily misconstrue or totally miss what is being said.
Intimacy issues. It seems as we depend more and more on technological communication, our connections become more shallow and impersonal. We may have hundreds of "friends" on a Facebook page, but how many can we count as close, personal friends? We may be settling for quantity over quality. The primary purpose of existence for most people is to love and be loved. This is difficult to achieve by clicking and clacking on keys.
Information glut. I know some people who spend hours per day reading Facebook posts. Do we really need to know about someone's work schedule, dietary habits, the chores they have to do or their family spats? It is amazing the volume of personal information put out there for the world to see. And in some cases this overabundance of information can be used by predatory, harmful individuals. Sometimes less is more.
Immediacy. Messages and responses fly back and forth at the speed of light; people often do not take the time to confirm the context or meaning of the message or to thoughtfully form their responses. This impulse to immediately respond, particularly to text messages, can be dangerous. A recent study found that 66 percent of adults aged 18 to 24 text while driving, leading many states to legislate bans on this practice.
Language erosion. When the written language of choice includes "cya," "l8ter," "k," and "cuz," it is not surprising that these abbreviations and slang are showing up on homework assignments and job reports. It is difficult for some people to switch from the text and online chat language to proper grammar.
Misuse. Communicating through technological means has given rise to cyberbullying and saying things one would never say face to face. It is a form of cowardice to hide behind the anonymity of technological communication to be spiteful or communicate difficult messages that lend themselves to a face to face conversation.
Technological communication has reaped many conveniences, but cannot replace quality, face to face human interactions. We must apply common sense and thoughtful consideration when deciding which avenue of communication is most honest and appropriate to the occasion.
Miriam Keith is consumer support coordinator of the Washington County Behavioral Health Board. Mental Health Matters appears on the Opinion page on the first Saturday of each month.