People are born to be socially interactive communicators, and it’s possible there’s never been a more communicative time in human history. But in the mobile devices phase of the digital age, some people are confusing connectivity with communication. In the digital age we seem to be always connected – in any given day we could be overly connected, randomly connected, intensely connected – and over time, some people go down the digital rabbit hole as far as being addicted to communication devices, and must physically and psychologically detox in a non-wired environment.
Reaching someone in the age of mobile communication should be a snap, or at least a ping. But voice messages and texts in the digital now have become as easy to ignore as emails in our digital yesterday. In our current world of partial distracted attention, people are finding it easier to not communicate so as to avoid another distraction, and resist being overwhelmed by one more text, voice mail, photo.
In the same way everyone had a different mode of communicating before mobile digital devices came along, every person adapts technology to themselves, and not the other way around. Some people are allied with their electronic devices, and others battle digital technology as if they are in a never-ending war. Others find themselves bonded to tech communications devices in a way that constitutes a primary relationship.
With all of these factors in play, communication is just as complex and confusing as it always was. We shouldn’t compare ease-of-use with easier communication. When a voice message, text, or email lands, the default action has been set to inaction. Inside someone’s busy mind, a list or hierarchy of importance unscrolls in a mental checklist, and contacts are immediately placed in folders located deep in a person’s gray matter. I’ll get to that later turns into I’ll get to that never. Without two-sided communication, connection breaks down, and countless conversations go nowhere. Even though we live in the connection economy, and Google’s Gmail considers everything you send or receive to be a conversation, in reality, it just isn’t so.
To a large degree, communication has become a solitary action. On mass transit, heads are down, eyes are focused on smartphones and tablet screens, and commuters are frantically thumb-typing messages to people in their network, workmates, friends, family members, and on and on – often to simply let networked others know they exist.
Teenagers who used to not speak to parents due to being misunderstood now have technology to help them during this phase of life. Texting has become the default mode of communication for young adults and a great many others. Young adults text friends, sext friends, and log on to post photos and words to social media sites, but face to face interactions with parents has been deemed unnecessary. When younger children are exposed to tech communication devices and digital games, and they can become as addicted as adults, and because their brains don’t have the means to adapt to more nuanced reactions, are even more susceptible to tech device addiction.
No matter the stage of life, the tsunami of digital communication is here to stay. As the means to make sense of it evolves, our minds will individually find better ways to sort through the linkages and dead-ends, the networks to somewhere in the digital everywhere and the shortcuts to get past digital devices not equipped to translate what people say they mean with what they actually mean. Communication in the early years of the twenty-first century has come so far, and is still a work in progress, as it always has been.