Face Value

Electronic communication: blessing and curse.

Blessing: It’s never been so easy to communicate with so many people so quickly.

Curse: It’s never been so easy to misunderstand meaning and avoid personal contact.

When someone texts “That’s fine :)” they might really be thinking “That totally bites” and you wouldn’t know. Whereas when someone says “That’s fine” in person you can tell by the forced smile, pursed lips, folded arms, or popping veins that it really isn’t fine.

Even talking on the phone you can tell by the suddenly strained voice, long awkward pause, and gasping sobs that it won’t be fine for you to miss the family reunion.

We’ve tried to add emotion to electronic communication with cute little symbols like 😉 and ^_^ and o.O (I still don’t see that one), but it isn’t quite the same.

Using written messages to communicate isn’t new. Throughout time we’ve used notes and letters to express what is difficult to say in person. Believe me, I spent a fair share of my youth passing notes with boys, friends, and enemies. But electronic communication has made it so much faster and easier. What I wouldn’t have given to be able to Group MMS a slew of social leaches I couldn’t shake through junior high.

Back when we had to hand write notes and letters we had to take time to form complete sentences, use capitalization, punctuation and find a trustworthy messenger. Ransom note writing was even more tedious with all that cutting and pasting of letters from magazines.

And we had to know how to spell.

Now we can spew out a quick text with little or no language use at all, especially with a whole new vocabulary of acronyms to use. Before Sleepless in Seattle gave us YOH and MFEO, what was there besides ASAP and XOXOXO?

People have entire relationships via electronic communications, or at least they think they do until the fake girlfriend tragically dies.

I got nailed for using electronic communication to handle a confrontation I was too chicken to do in person.

I expressed a well-meaning concern to a friend via email and, oh, the brew ha ha that followed.

Another friend of mine had an email falling out with a parent whose child was in a performing group she managed. The music curriculum she used was a franchise and after several years with the company they notified her that, because of copyright laws, parents would no longer be allowed to video record performances. She was required to hire a cameraman to professionally record performances then sell the dvds.

My friend sent out this information to the parents via email, apologizing for the inconvenience but said she found the least expensive camera guy she could and would sell the dvds for cost.

One of the dads was particularly ripped about it. Full of impersonal courage that can only come from the buffer of a computer screen, he hashed out a scathing email about what a rip off that was and how it was just another way to suck money from good families.

The dvd was $10.

No to mention the monthly dues for the group were only $28, and that was for four one hour lessons a month and two recitals a year.

What can you involve you kids in that is only $28 a month anymore?

My daughter’s half hour cello lesson is twenty bucks!

My friend initially started this group to give her own kids the opportunity to perform and allow other kids in the community to participate. She figured out that with all the time and money she spent running the group she made about a dollar an hour in profit.

To further abuse the mask of electronic communication, the dad Cc:’d his nasty message to all the other parents too.

Parents who probably initially didn’t given a flying fig about paying ten bucks for a dvd, suddenly jumped on board and forwarded messages like, “Yeah, what he said!”

The next time my friend saw Captain Martyr—Saving the world from evil money grubbing entrepreneurial mothers everywhere!—in person, he was all sheepish and told her his message was probably unduly harsh.

Ya think?

In this age of instant high tech communication, perhaps we should still try to engage in face-to-face contact occasionally just to keep us somewhat grounded. There’s something about communicating in person that activates an innate social filter that saves us from making total idiots of ourselves most of the time, unless you’re on a family reality show.

I don’t even want to know what acronyms the Kardashians use.

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