hear about it quite often… virtually every day.
world isn’t the same.
isn’t the same as it was yesterday… isn’t the same as it was last
year… as it was five years ago… ten years ago… a generation ago…
and even longer than that.
see technology advancing at a blistering pace… walls and barriers,
both literally and figuratively, being torn down (and, if we’re
being honest, being built)… the world adapting and doing new things,
from how we get our news to the focus of coverage during sporting
events… and the impression is that, for the most part, change
is a scary thing but good overall.
not so sure.
that concept, for the purposes of this essay, I’d like to explore
the lack of formality… the lack of manners… the lack of respect
that is reaching staggering levels. Because as we move ahead,
increasing the speed with which we share information and the ability
to follow our fantasy football teams… for me at least… the way
we treat each other seems to be moving in reverse. And I wonder
if anyone else is grimacing while it happens.
not here to complain about cell phones. Nor do I plan to tell
you I’m mad because several songs I’d like to own are only available
via internet download… and I’ve never done that. That’s just the
world moving on. That’s just the differences between the world
today and the world when I was born, and it will continue. A great
concept from Men of a Certain Age sums up the reality
quite nicely: 100 years from now, same game, same challenges,
all new people.
how we treat each other… and not the adapting to change that a
new day brings… that’s something different.
fifteen years ago (actually, less), I opened up my first e-mail
account. We had just bought a computer and we were looking at
the internet. Soon I was playing Warcraft 2 against people
from other countries.
that time I was working on professional and personal efforts,
and with one such thought I had prepared a query for a magazine
article. Just so happened I had found that the preferred submission
method for one location was electronic. Proofreading and setting
things up accordingly… e-mail they wanted, e-mail they got… I
sent it in.
three or four days later, I received a reply that loosely (but
accurately) looked like this…
for sending the idea
get back to you soon
move back a few days before this arrived… before I clicked to
send it along… before I had even composed my proposal… in fact,
let’s move a few steps before any of this happened.
happen to subscribe to the opinion that when you present something
in writing, you are giving the recipient the right to judge that
material as a sample of what they can expect from you.
audience matters… intent matters.
wife and I leave notes on the counter. Shopping lists are the
majority of these notes. There are scribbles indicating we need
milk, bread or laundry detergent. Occasionally these notes fall
into the category of reminders. A dentist appointment… a car needing
an oil change… a phone call that needs to be returned or something
that needs to be done the next morning before leaving for work.
informational, and casual in nature would best describe this stuff.
None of these examples would ever be judged with a critical eye.
(Well… unless I forgot to write down milk, she went shopping,
and the next morning when she had her bowl of cereal ready she
went to the fridge and found… nothing. Because I forgot the milk.
But that’s a totally different type of criticism though.)
the other hand, let’s say I’m writing a cover letter for a job
application. Or perhaps I’m sending in a query to a magazine for
an article I’d like to write. And in the letter I misspell the
person’s name… or the person I address it to has been gone from
the company for years… or maybe I include data in my query that
isn’t accurate or properly researched.
these examples I have presented this as a legitimate sample of
what a person could expect from me. And… look, to be a bit brief
about it… spelling counts. If you make mistakes in the cover letter,
you’re saying that your work will be sloppy, inaccurate, or just
poorly produced. You’re saying that you don’t care and either
expect others to turn their head or not care either. And, honestly,
you’re saying this person, group or company is not worthy of your
I said… spelling counts.
let’s step back into my proposal and the response.
this a shopping list? A reminder to feed the dogs?
It is a response to a formal inquiry on my part.
that’s what I’m talking about.
was this person? Why had I triggered an ability to be so carefree
and casual in responding to me?
is… I know it wasn’t me. And it wasn’t anything I did.
tremendously advanced our ability to communicate over the past
few decades. Forget wireless phones… we’ve come to affordable
cell phones (insert your own joke here) that everyone has. Instant
news is available on television, or can be accessed on the internet.
Heck, we have real-time scoring for fantasy football on sites
that can provide you with more information than actual broadcasts!
It seems quite evident our abundance of wonders will never cease.
the ability to communicate has become faster, easier, and more
powerful… it seems to me that we’ve all lost our ability to communicate.
was the last time you called a major company on the phone and
got a person on the other end of the line without having to press
a minimum of four buttons to get to that person?
was the last time you wrote a letter… Christmas cards don’t count…
and mailed it to a friend?
television we get material that is presented in a way not really
to inform us on issues on events, but rather to earn higher ratings.
Or do you think that 61-minute broadcast that rolls over into
other shows is an accident?
the state of Connecticut, we’ve reached a point where local dialing
is now a 10-digit affair.
yes… things are moving splendidly.
instead of possessing and cherishing interpersonal skills and
contact… instead of encouraging conversation and accurate information
or analysis… we’ve turned into a culture of junk e-mails asking
us to order our drugs at the cheapest prices available and emoticons.
dare you. Open something so you can write. Type “:”… then type
“)”… now hit the spacebar. Did it make that smiley face symbol?
Ugh… I hate that. Fingernails on a blackboard don’t drive
me nuts... but smiley face emoticons are my fingernails on a blackboard
have someone flush in the middle of your phone call? I mean that
literally. On the phone. Talking about whatever. A toilet flushes.
was one thing when wireless phones for the home became common.
You’d be talking to someone and there it was… usually during a
long phone call… a flush.
was sort of the equivalent of a shopping list moment. You could
forgive it because of the person you were speaking to.
now… god it seems like you can’t walk into a public restroom without
at least one person having a cell phone to their ear. Are these
calls really that important? They sure don’t sound like they are.
think we have lost our ability to communicate… both verbally and
in writing. What had been cute… replacing words with numbers or
using some abbreviation that isn’t close to spelled properly…
has spawned a commonplace set of examples and a mentality where
I honestly don’t believe many people could properly use more than
one of the following words: to… two… too.
I have a solution.
we ban cell phones and wireless phones. We install rotary dials
on every telephone, cords that stretch no longer than 6-feet,
and limit every house to two phones.
second, we prohibit e-mails from being sent out every day. From
now on, they will only be sent on Tuesdays and Fridays. (Oh you
can write them on any day. But the send – receive options will
only work twice each week.)
you imagine kids having to make phone calls in the kitchen? Or
wait a few days for a response to a letter?
about companies that can’t ask you to push a button because all
you can do is dial? (They might be forced to actually answer a
call. I’m guessing I lost some of you with those kids on the phone
in the kitchen. But admit it… companies answering when you call
is a good one.)
have to tell you… I understand the reasons against such actions
as those I suggest, and maybe the true joy is found in nostalgia
of the pain of a two-way uphill walk being inflicted upon those
that have no understanding of the past rather than forcing the
young to walk up that hill… but I’m liking the thoughts behind
these ideas. I am willing to change my mind though, and let technology
I ask in return is that you stop using L-O-L.