Did you ever wonder what life would be like if all interactions were via videos? What if dating, shopping, school, work were all accomplished with videos instead of face to face? Would it make any difference in our lives?
Of course, there would likely be fewer colds passed around! But how would it affect our social interactions? Have we reached the place where we no longer need to be in the actual presence of another human? Has technology finally become the substitute for communication?
It seems to me that something was lost when we stopped writing letters. I remember writing long letters to my cousin Wanda and my grandparents and my aunt and uncle when I was in high school. I lived in Chicago and they lived far away in Arizona and Hawaii. I remember how excited I was when I received letters in return.
Handwritten letters communicate more than words. They communicate emotions through the loops and whirls of ink. They reveal joy or sadness or excitement in a way that the printed word can't duplicate. The very time it takes to generate a handwritten document allows the individual to think about what they're writing. Many writers go back to the pencil and paper when they're having trouble with writers block. Perhaps the very act of making that personal mark on paper is the key.
Video communication bears the same relationship to personal interactions that e-mail does to snail mail. It's quick. It's impersonal. It does the job, I suppose. In the case of business conferences over long distances, it's certainly cheaper. For military families separated by conflict, it's a precious opportunity to be together.
I wonder, though, if we are too ready to use technology out of a growing inertia. Is texting taking the place of getting together on the front porch to visit? Are we so wired we no longer see the real people around us? Have we lost the ability to recognize emotion because we're so immersed in our individual worlds?
Some say we're communicating more than ever, but I don't think that's true. Now, instead of one-on-one discussion, we send out an e-mail to our hundred closest friends. How can that be personal? What's the difference between that and those mimeographed letters we used to get at Christmas?
In this day of instant sound bytes, I fear we've lost the ability to communicate. Truth and emotion are over-shadowed by speed and sensation. Increasingly, it's not who we are, but the picture we present that's important.