Communication is an Endangered Species

Key deer - just one of many endangered species

Key deer – just one of many endangered species

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Last night, we watched the movie Terms of Endearment. The movie still provides some sentimental waterfalls, but there are some things that seemed so modern in 1983 when the movie was made that are nearly archaic now thirty years later. Phones were push button but still in the old rotary style with the coiled cord and receiver. The movie shows a scene where a large rectangular portable phone presents itself poolside. How “modern” this cordless box appeared that even the character played by Debra Winger pulls it away from her ear to give it a smirk.

How far we’ve come in these thirty years – for better and for worse. The four of us watching the film began talking about the advent of the cell phone into our lives and how it changed communication skills once that tiny little piece of technology made its way into mainstream life. My friend recounted his experience working in a restaurant where communication among employees was open and made for the smooth running of the establishment for his first four or five years in his job as cook. But then slowly over the course of a year, cell phones began appearing in the hands of the waiters, cooks, dishwashers, and managers. Instead of talking with one another, communication occurred over the plastic encased wires, making face-to-face talking less and less. Efficiency  among the staff deteriorated as did the quality of service.

It’s even worse today with the introduction of texting into our lives. I’ll admit it’s convenient to text someone a quick note, but now instead of living lives, paying attention while shopping, walking, or driving, folks text their messages to their phone. We’re going to lose our ability to appreciate our surroundings. I understand the allure. I finally came into the modern world this month when I was upgraded to an iphone with my cell phone company. It’s addicting to follow my career and personal life on this little square screen that fits in my pocket and alerts me whenever Carmelitta Carson tweets or Joseph Jackson posts his status on Facebook or when Monster Mart sends me an email letting me know that kitchen sinks are now on sale. Meanwhile, my husband is telling me – in person – about his schedule for the next week. I didn’t hear him with all the other distractions occurring worlds away from my present. I put the phone away and turned off the beeps and buzzes informing me of nonsense nonessential to living my life.

Last week I wrote a post (Becoming a Non-Person) about becoming a non-person in a wheelchair. I mentioned my friend whose brother faces the challenges of multiple sclerosis that has left him bed- and wheel-chair bound. This past weekend his nurse, who comes every morning to shower and care for him while my friend goes to work, was fired. This nurse was a God-send because she treated my friend’s brother as a worthwhile human being bringing him smiles and laughter. My friend was devastated and waited an entire day before telling her brother. When she finally told him yesterday, he calmly took the news and asked for the phone. He called the boss of the agency that fired the nurse, and he became his old self – confident and strong – and within thirty minutes brought the boss to tears as he convinced her the nurse should be rehired because they were fortunate to have her, and whatever issues occurred to cause her firing should be addressed and used as a way to help this valuable employee and human being.

My friend wrote me this morning to tell me the nurse was rehired, and she could hear her brother and the nurse conversing in the next room.

Those of us on our fancy new forms of communications are the ones in danger of becoming non-persons, not the wonder in the wheelchair who still knows the importance of communicating with confidence, clarity, and compassion. Let’s not make him an endangered species.

13 thoughts on “Communication is an Endangered Species

  1. Great post, which brought me to tears at the end. I so agree with you about losing our ability to communicate properly. I see so many mothers on the street, pushing strollers with phone in hand and taking no notice of the precious child. I could cry for their future.

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  2. When you and I email-chatted recently, the above-mentioned problems were exactly the issues I had in mind when I said that in some ways technology had changed the world in bad ways. Thanks for sharing the problem and offering such a simple solution.

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    • You’re right. I had just finished writing this post when we communicated. I thought about going back and adding how the Internet has brought us closer together in some ways. I decided to wait for another chance to write about the friendships I’ve found and recovered through the magic of cyperspace. Moderation in all things is key.

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  3. It’s all a balance, isn’t it? Technology is neutral, neither good nor bad. It’s our use of it that turns it one way or the other. For example, I like Facebook to keep in touch with old friends I might never have otherwise. But I’ve quit wasting time playing Facebook games. Always a balance. (I’m not judging those that still play, just for me it’s no good).

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    • It really is a balance. I agree that Facebook, blogs, and Twitter have brought some wonderful folks my way and allowed me to reconnect with people from my childhood. All of it is a tremendously useful tool during the writing revolution occurring right now. But for me, I want the balance and moderation. I stopped playing the games, too, but for others that’s something they enjoy.

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  4. Enjoyed the post. My concern with this new technology is with those younger people who have yet to learn face to face communication skills. Technology keeps us in touch but it can hardly be construed as real connection.

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    • Christina, your concern is legitimate, I’m afraid. I see families out for dinner yet not talking to each other but communicating through the screens in front of them on the table. Toddlers are even given the phones to occupy themselves with movies and games. There are positive aspects, but many have taken it too far. Thank you for your comments.

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  5. Great post! The other day I was watching a movie with a couple of people, and while the movie was playing one person was reading an iPad, another flipping through her phone…I feel like we’re so used to electronics that it’s almost like one isn’t even enough any more, so our attention is constantly zapping from one thing to the next. I’m just as bad – every time my phone beeps I immediately have to check my email/text message/facebook. I keep thinking I should turn it off for set times during the day, but haven’t brought myself to do that yet.

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  6. I was at the store yesterday to get a few items. I’m often tempted to call the wife and confirm, do we need TP? But I hate being that guy glued to his phone in a public place. Then that guy (a lady this time) nearly plowed into me in the aisle, and didn’t even acknowledge that she had nearly collided with me.
    Great article!

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    • I find myself reaching for the phone or answering it in public places and really try hard not to do it. I had a cashier talking on the phone the other day while checking me out! I wanted to report her to a manager, but then thought the manager would probably ask me why I had a problem with it. And I constantly run into folks on the road who aren’t paying attention to which lane they’re in, etc. and then when I pass them I see the phone glued to their ear. I’m not saying I’m perfect but I think we need to try and be present as much as possible. Thanks for stopping by, Vince.

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  7. Pingback: Happy Birthday Blog! | Lit and Scribbles with Jae

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