A couple of weeks ago I went to the bank with my mother to deposit money. The bank was empty, but I headed straight to the ATM – that is, until my mom stopped and told me to go to a teller. “But then I’d have to fill out a slip and I don’t remember my bank account number and I’d have to go all the way inside…” the excuses flowed out easily, but I questioned myself. Why didn’t I just go to the teller? I put on my ‘adult’ hat and walked inside. It was fast, easy, and pleasant.
Why didn’t I want to talk to the teller? What makes the ATM more ‘convenient’ if going to a teller takes the same amount of time? The only difference is human interaction. Why is interacting with strangers such a deterrent?
The exponential increase in technology says a lot about society. We’re moving away from small, interpersonal interactions in the name of ‘convenience.’ Virtually everything can be done with minimal contact nowadays; food is ordered online, shipping labels can be printed out, machines eliminate the need for MTA workers and bank tellers. Granted, this technology is very useful and saves a lot of people a lot of time – and as a native New Yorker, I appreciate saved time.
However, social skills are slowly deteriorating. Kids in younger generations are growing up with cell phones in their hands and the virtual world at their fingertips. It’s no wonder my brother asks me to order food on the phone for him (and make the rest of his phone calls); my friends play on their phones while we’re eating dinner together; my sisters email and snapchat me instead of calling.
There are pros: easy, fast, simple communication with a vast expanse of people. We have bigger networks now, bigger than our grandparents could ever imagine. However, there are cons as well: some would argue we have access to too much information; and as court cases involving social networking increase, the line between public and private life is being blurred. Additionally, there’s an expectation that people are now supposed to be readily available via email, text or call.
Text messages. Awkward, awkward text messages. Interpreting them are a pain – is that “haha” sarcastic? If I don’t include a smiley face, does this sound mean? 🙂 Text messages lack body language and nonverbal communication, so we try to include mood indicators through language. That’s a recipe for disaster more often than not. By using “texting” language, we run the risk of losing the genuine message we’re trying to convey.
Additionally, by trying to ‘speak through writing’ we also lose objectivity. Simply put, people don’t take text messages at face value anymore. The reader seeks meaning in each message, and the writer isn’t there to clarify. The abbreviated language used in texting further muddles the intended message.
There’s a difference between physically conveying what you’re saying via body language and tone versus reading a sentence. We don’t convey our thoughts via a written medium the same way we would convey them via a spoken medium; meshing the two together is not working. Simplified written language can’t convey the subtle nuances of spoken language properly.
Convenience has simplified written language and social interaction. We need to be aware of this in our day to day interactions. Humans are such a wary species, especially in New York, but we need to take efforts to interact with each other if we don’t want technology to consume us. We need to make that phone call instead of text. We need to do our banking at the teller.