Friday, April 3, 2009

Would Jesus Tweet? It Sure Is Efficient

Evidently voice mail is going the way of IBM Selectric typewriters, being overtaken by texting, e-mails, Facebook messages, and Twits, young people's (them again) preferred methods of communication. Some people don't even listen to their voice mails anymore or await programs that will translate spoken messages into type.

Why meet, why touch, anyway? Better to sit at home with a computer on your lap and BlackBerry within reach. Why not hold the whole world at bay behind walls of pixels? Jill Colvin's article about this phenomenon buried the lead -- or maybe she wrote it this way on purpose. Her final paragraphs:
For Charlie Park, 30, a Web developer in Williamsburg, Va., a text message is more efficient and — equally important — more respectful of the recipient’s time.

“You never send an e-mail that says, ‘Hey, e-mail me back!’ You’re always sending information,” he said.

But even Mr. Park admits that sometimes, there is value in voice.

When his eldest daughter, Lucy, now 5, was learning to talk, he had to take a business trip. While away, she left him a message: “I love you daddy. I miss you. Come home soon.”

Mr. Park said he kept the message for several years and would replay it again and again.

“There is something nice about hearing people’s voices,” he said.
You think?


charliepark said...

Certainly, you must recognize the difference between having a conversation on the phone and interacting with a voicemail system. The purpose of the piece wasn't "let's all create digital cocoons and hide behind our screens." Colvin was talking about the inefficiencies of voicemail as a specific medium for conveying information, and how other vehicles (specifically, written-out as opposed to aural information) are more effective.

Would most people prefer a face-to-face encounter over one by e-mail? Absolutely. But if you and I were having some asynchronous information transfer, I'd much rather have it in written form than in word-by-word audio. To wit: I'm sure you'd rather get this comment in its written out form, rather than me leaving it as a voicemail on your machine. It's more scannable, more quotable, easier to recall specifics, etc.

But if you're ever in Williamsburg, we can grab coffee, and talk about it all in person, and I'm sure we'd both value that much more.

Fr. John said...

Beautifully and persuasively said. Thank you! I went a little nuclear on this one because of other instances, especially in church work, where people are defaulting to e-mail where before they would've placed a phone call. So perhaps there's a hierarchy of incarnational communication, from most to least: face-to-face, telephone, VM (where at least we experience inflection and tone), text.

charliepark said...

I *love* the phrase "incarnational communication." And I can appreciate your frustration about an over-reliance on asynchronous (and impersonal) communications. I imagine that — especially with the sensitive nature of the majority of church work — the lost details and dropped nuances are pretty damaging. Best of luck as you fight the good fight!