Editorial: Instant communication?

It’s a whole new world, ever evolving in the way we communicate and share information. A grandmother overseas can video chat and instant message their grandchild anytime they wish, being a part of their lives in a way that would not have been possible a few short years ago.

Ten days ago marked the 25th anniversary of the text message. And many don’t know a world without it. What it was like to have to send a letter by post mail and wait days or weeks for the person to get the message? Today if someone doesn’t reply immediately to our texts we wonder what could be wrong? What could they possibly be doing that renders them unable to respond promptly to our oh-so-funny meme or winky face?

We insert ourselves into peoples’ lives without the boundaries of time and courtesy and allow them unprecedented access into ours. It was once unfathomable that someone would be so rude as to ring the phone during the dinner hour or after 8 pm when people were settling in for time with their families. Today, entire families can be in the same room and barely lift their gaze from their handheld device to acknowledge that there are people right there in real time that are deserving of attention.

Social media and Facebook allow us to keep in touch with family and friends near and far, being a part of their lives through posts and pictures. It can be a wonderful experience but it can also turn into an ugly game of the age-old competition of keeping up with the Jones’. It can be consuming and isolating for some who may constantly put themselves in a state of comparison with the hundreds of happy, perfect pictures of friends, parties, food and ideals that flood their newsfeed each day.

Facebook and other networking sites can also play a role in bringing people together in discussion or debate about anything from, which book is worthy of a read, to where to find the best contractor, to the most heated political or religious issues that may be at the forefront at any given time, sparking ideas and plans for positive change or just learning of another perspective. The danger in these exchanges is the once-removed, arms-length feeling of being behind a computer or smartphone – typing your feelings in the moment onto a white slate and sending them out into the world without any real check or balance. The balance that comes from having a person, a real breathing, feeling person standing in front of you.

We can all be quick to react, to feel the sting of a comment and want to strike back with our point, making sure our two cents is counted. But the difference is there is no one but us behind the computer screen and that can make it easy to react unchecked and unrestrained, saying things that we would never say looking into the face of that real, feeling person if they were standing before us. We would look into their eyes and have compassion and be more willing to balance our need to be heard with our instinct to be respectful and kind.