This blog was formerly titled "Sentiments and Scrapbooks."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

MORE is LESS

There’s a popular “saying” right now: “Less is more.” But, the thought that has come to my mind recently is that, in an important arena of life, actually, MORE IS LESS.

In our culture and in this time, there are more and more methods of communication available to us. But it seems to me that the more ways we have to communicate, the less meaningful communication is taking place. In the early days of my growing up years, other than face-to-face communication, we had the US mail.

When my husband was in Viet Nam 1968-1969, we had one way to communicate: letters. We poured out our hearts to each other, with handwritten letters (of course, I had a portable typewriter, but no one would’ve even thought to “write” a personal letter, especially a love letter, on a typewriter).

In those days, many of us (myself included) did not even have telephones (too expensive). When I first got married, I communicated with my family via letters (real ones, mailed through the US postal system). When I did get a telephone, I couldn’t use it for very much communication with my family, because they were long-distance, and I couldn’t afford to pay for calls. I SENT personal letters to my family, usually one per week. And wonder of wonders, I RECEIVED letters from all of them (parents, in-laws, siblings) as well. We knew what was going on in each others’ lives; we knew each others’ thoughts and feelings. We talked about the stuff of life—all in letters.

Fast forward about 45 years…

Now available are these methods of communication, among others:

US Mail (still)

Home phone (usually free long distance)

Fax

Email

Cell phone (with conference calling)

Texting

Blogging

Instant messaging

Facebook (with facebook IM, facebook email)

Virtual face-to-face with webcams

But, with all these ways to communicate, I truly believe there is less and less REAL communication taking place. I’m talking about stuff-of-life communication--NOT “checking in” from Starbucks, or posting someone else’s quote of the day, or making general status reports that are the same for all your “friends” whether they are close family members or acquaintances whom you don’t even remember meeting.

Next time you are out, look around. You will see numerous examples of “couples” who are sitting next to each other, or across the table from each other, who are EACH using a smart phone (texting, or playing games, or whatever). They may be interacting with someone else, electronically. But where is the meaningful communication?

No wonder so many relationships are in trouble—not just marriages, but also parent-child relationships, sibling relationships, and others. People don’t know how to communicate any more (generally speaking, of course). Why? Because they don’t practice. You may think of yourself as a great communicator because you post numerous times per day and have lots of “friends” and send and receive many texts per day. But, does your mother know how you FEEL today? Do you know how SHE feels today? Do your siblings know what you think about the important things of life? Have you had a meaningful conversation over a nice dinner out, with your spouse, lately? Do you remember the common courtesy of turning off your cell phone during dinner?

These days, words are flying. Primarily, they are flying electronically. There is no shortage of language being used. Multiple methods of communication are used each day by each of us. Think back over your day. Was your “communication” an investment in relationships? Or was it meaningless, for the most part?

I’m not suggesting that we revert to snail-mail letters as the only way to communicate (although I will say that e-cards and facebook wishes are no substitute for Hallmark cards)! Heaven knows, I’m as “big” on technical stuff as anyone—I have an iPhone, iPad, laptop, wireless keyboard, a blog, and I’ve been a queen of email since it first existed. But I do think that we could all be more aware of using communication tools more effectively (quality is still more important than quantity), and of remembering (and encouraging our children/grandchildren to remember) that the art of personal and real communication must not be lost.

Of course, there are those who stay up with the latest technology and still manage to keep up real and meaningful interpersonal-relationship-type communication. I certainly hope and pray that I am one of those. But I believe I am observing a widespread problem.

Oh, yes, there are more and more ways to communicate. But those methods are being used with less and less real meaning, in my view. It’s a loss to our culture, I’m afraid. Sadly, I believe, in the case of communication these days, more is absolutely less.

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