• The Strategic Perspective


Updated: Oct 11, 2019

It started out as a joke: A group of teenagers, all sitting around a table, in someone’s house or coffee shop, staring down at their phones and not saying a word. They were communicating, just not vocally. They were all text messaging each other. The modern version of passing notes back and forth during school; except no one was in class and there were no adults in the room, forcing them to be quiet.

What was once a last resource of communication, when talking out loud wasn’t an option, has become the preferred method of conversation for many people. Technology evolves and texting can be pretty damn convenient sometimes. Maybe you just have something quick to say. Maybe you need to communicate but any other form would be prohibitive or disruptive. Maybe you’re just too tired and don’t feel like getting into a drawn-out conversation. All of those are perfectly acceptable reasons to use text or other messaging applications.

With that being said, texting or instant messaging shouldn’t replace real-life communication, using your voice. Talking is a skill and a very important one. I myself, am slightly more introverted and even acknowledge this (51% Introvert to 49% Extrovert, based on Myers-Briggs, if you believe in that sort of thing).

Skills, much like muscles will atrophy if not used or practiced. Think of an astronaut floating through space with zero gravity and no resistance on the body. They have to keep a specialized gym within The International Space Station, just to stop the body from wasting away.

It’s also the same principle behind someone who once spoke a second or third language fluently. If you don’t use it regularly, you might remember the basics but your fluency will be lost. This happened to me with Spanish. I can still get around and have basic conversations, but it is nothing compared to when I was living in South America.

I’m sure people said disparaging things about the telephone when it first came out. This isn’t unique to text messaging. However, the telephone should still not replace in-person conversation and connection. The telephone and text do not allow you to pick up on body language or other physical, emotional cues.

With that said, the telephone is better than text because you can at least hear the emotional inflection in another person’s voice. We try and utilize emojis and acronyms to get this across through text. However, many times it doesn’t translate the way we intend it. Sometimes to embarrassingly, inappropriate hilarity - or worse.

Even video chat services like Skype or Facetime aren’t perfect. You can pick up on the inflection of a person’s voice, and even see their body language, but you still lack the ability to physically touch the person you are communicating with. Sometimes that may be a plus, especially if the person on the other end is a total creepazoid. Most often, what is needed can only be achieved with real life, in-person interaction. It is always the most fulfilling.

Use technology to help maintain the connection, especially with those who may be separated by long, physical distances. It is a tool that can and should be harnessed, to help us live a fulfilling life. Just remember, as useful a tool as it is, it will never be able to replace real-life, live interactions.

As technology advances and VR, AR, AI, and robotics become more advanced, I can see a future where a person could simulate life everlasting, with relatives who have long passed away. The use of a brain download, placed in a realistic, humanoid robot could make this possible. Will that not be an amazing tool with the potential to help one gain closure or fight age-related loneliness? Maybe, or maybe not. There is already a strong debate about the ethics and morality of this technology.

For now, if you want a fulfilling life, maintain a real-life connection with the people you care about, while you still can.

P.S. Text messaging can be a great method of defusing conflict within a relationship. It forces you to think as you type, rather than saying insulting words out of impulse or hurt feelings. It's also the most effective when done in separate rooms. Trust me on this one :)

More importantly, if children are in the home, it protects them from hearing anything. Think of this as the more effective/covert, modern-day version of watching your parents argue in the car, in front of the house.