The Telephone

I never really liked talking over the phone. I am the type of person who devotes his attention to the matter at hand. That means that if I’m on the phone, my attention is squarely on the conversation I’m having, thereby monopolizing my time and energy. I am unable to do anything else. I find the phone call to be a crippling activity. I have a phone stuck to my ear and a hand stuck holding it there. A phone call is unfair: I am either giving my attention to the person on the other end or to the task at hand. Doing it any other way divides my attention, reducing the quality of both the activity and the phone conversation. I greatly prefer the richness of the human experience: talking face to face. You reap the benefits of greater animation and more accurate impressions. When I talk over the phone my mind drifts. I find it hard to focus on phone conversations. Talking over the phone is boring. You do not see the glimmer of one’s eyes as they get excited. You do not hear the subtle intonations of their voice as they wax philosophical. You do not feel the energy that they project as they experience their own emotions. You do not see the smirk on their face as they make a snide comment. There is no depth over the phone: communication becomes flat and uninteresting. Yes, we hear the laughs, the sighs…but they mean less without the face that emotes.Instant messaging and e-mail are even more impersonal. Instant messaging was originally designed to be user notification systems. E-mail was borne from the need to communicate between mainframe computer users. Neither was designed to create a rich communicative experience: they were meant for rather business-like interactions. The individual nuances that give a person their unique persona are stripped, and conversations become barren. Yes, we have ways to emote, namely through smilies. But we can only do so much with smilies. I do not believe that we can effectively convey personality through a combination of two or three characters. Where is the subtlety of a smile that creeps up on one’s lips? Where is the delight that magically springs onto one’s face? How does one convey a mixture of shyness and curiosity? How does one express a gentle smile borne of melancholy?Writing a letter is still a personal affair. There is the choice of stationery, the choice of ink and how it is delivered. The subtle pauses that one can detect in the flow of one’s writing gives one all the more to work with. The way the ‘i’s are dotted, the flourish of the ‘t’ that was written, the hefty punctuation of a period…it all combines together to form a tapestry of emotion, a snapshot of your spirit at a particular moment in time.

We are increasingly becoming reliant on electronic means to perform an inherently human action. Machines filter out the nearly tangible emotions and expressions that come with an engaging face to face conversation. Why deprive oneself of the joys of human intricacy? Human beings are complex creatures. The task of of being represented on a screen in two dimensions is impossible, yet we continue to attempt to squeeze every drop of humanity out of pixels on a screen. It’s a real shame. It really is.

The author acknowledges the use of electronic communications to be most convenient and efficient. However, he still prefers his personal interactions to be face to face.