I’ve been thinking a lot about communication recently, particularly with the regards to the irony that we are more connected than ever before and yet we are worse communicators than we’ve ever been. I’ve heard it argued that this is because we are too busy to actually take the time to think about what the best way is to communicate with other people. And I agree. However, I think there are several other reasons why we struggle to communicate despite having countless media in which to do it.
First, I think most of us are overly consumed with ourselves and the lives of those we think are dependent upon us. We have unprecedented opportunities and choices before us every day. As a result, we have more responsibility than ever as we wade through these innumerable decisions. This necessarily causes us to spend the majority of our energy weighing all the options and making decisions that bygone generations either took for granted or didn’t have.
Second, I think we are far more isolated than ever before. Because we have phones and computers and social media at our fingertips, we fall into the trap of thinking we are more relationally connected than we really are. Texting and scoping out someone’s Instagram or Facebook may give us plenty of information about them, but it doesn’t develop lasting, genuine connections with them. We are informed (by filtered information) about the happenings of others’ lives, but we don’t know them, nor do they know us. We are little islands in the stream of American life (Thanks Dolly and Kenny).
Third, I think we are lulled into thinking that every event in the world has a bearing upon our daily lives. Certainly, staying informed about major global events is important, but the obsessive commentary on the most minute details of those events via online and cable new sources as well as social media browsing is overwhelming. We believe we have something to say or do about a tragic or wonderful event in a village located deep in the Himalaya mountains.
Our ancestors didn’t have to navigate these waters. Many of them lived in a small town or village and got their news once or twice a day from local newspapers and from the local community center gossip. I remember watching my grandmothers talk to the ladies at church before Sunday School and after “preaching” (worship) to catch up on what’s going on in each other’s lives. They loved that fellowship because it was the time they could connect, share prayer concerns, and laugh with their beloved sisters in Christ. We were always the last to leave church because “nanny,” “maw maw,” and mom were always in deep conversation with their friends whom they hadn’t seen in a week.
I must say that I miss those days. We would all be a lot better off if we would slow down, be less concerned with ourselves, limit our choices, intentionally connect with others in person, and focus our attention on the things that actually do impact our lives and our community.
**This article was originally published in the Wednesday, May 19, 2021 edition of The Chester News and Reporter in Chester, SC.