August 15, 2006

Whom do you call?

Posted in News, Personal, Relationships, Technology at 1:03 am by Calico Jack

A new Swiss study reveals some interesting facts about the way we communicate in the 21st century. According to Stefana Broadbent of Swisscom, 80% of our cell phone conversations are only with four people. On first glance, such a claim seems rather unlikely. But then I thought a little bit more about the people I actually spend the most time talking to, and I think Broadbent’s right. Many of us don’t necessarily use our cell phones to get in touch with casual acquaintances. We have a myriad of options when it comes to communication, from cell phones to instant messaging to email to social networking sites such as Facebook and the cesspool of the internet, MySpace. With so many choices available, I often IM or email someone if I want to drop them a note or ask a question. It’s my close friends and family with whom I take the time to communicate personally.

This doesn’t mean that I only have a select few with whom I only talk to my cell; a quick glance at my recent calls displays quite a few names. But the ones who show up most frequently, and for the longest duration, are only a couple of people. If I’m planning a party, I’ll call a bunch of people to see if they’re able to come. But I doubt I’ll spend much time talking to them on the cell, especially if I spent an hour instant messaging them the previous night.

I’m not sure that this study actually means much. What it does point out is that we have many diverse ways of communicating, and we use each medium for different purposes. One hundred years ago, people didn’t profess their love for each other through telegrams — they wrote letters instead. But for business, telegrams were much more practical and efficient than waiting a week or more to receive a letter in the mail. Our ways of connecting are different than our forefathers’, but we are alike in one respect: we seek closeness with other people. However, I wonder if we aren’t less connected with each other than we used to be.

Nothing compares to actually talking to someone face-to-face. It is nearly impossible to read emotions through text, and a phone call removes our most important way of expressing ourselves to each other — through facial expressions. Communication has largely become something that is stripped down to its bare essentials; many people can’t even be bothered to write out full sentences when they write each other. The richness of sincere, leisurely conversation is absent, and I suspect few mourn its passing.

So check your cell phone records, and see how many people you actually call on a regular basis. And think about how many names are on your buddy list who you never IM. Instead of trying to have superficial relationships with as many people as possible, make an effort to develop true friendships with a few people. I suspect we’ll all be better off if we do that.

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