Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Digital love in a digital age

My friend Matt and I were talking about dating rituals and how we are both awful on the phone. I stumble over my words and get distracted by people who are actually around me and allow for really long, pregnant pauses because I expect the other person to fill them in to make it not awkward; so if I'm on the phone with Matt, or really anyone else from our generation, it turns into one awful string of pauses and utterances that never really produces a gratifying phone conversation.

Matt and I are not alone; most of my friends complain about being horrendously awkward on the phone. And as I was talking to Matt on iChat and Facebook messaging Josh and texting David, I realized that the reason none of us can communicate adequately via telephone is because we've had close to zero practice!

Our generation was borne of the internet. The internet was invented probably around the same time I was born. I got my first screen name (Actress151) when I was in 5th grade. Since then, I've relied almost entirely on the internet to communicate with my friends.

Even people I've known for years give me trouble on the phone. We giggle nervously, we mishear each other, we stare shifty eyed into space while luscious silence eats up the wires. I'm even awkward with my father on the phone!

And it really is because I use the internet to do everything. I've broken up with boyfriends (and been broken up with) via AIM; I've explicated my life stories to old friends who moved out West; I've kept in contact with cousins and my friends from high school solely through the internet; I've traded study guides and music and writing all through AIM. So it's really not surprising that when it comes to the phone, I become a retarded 2 year old.

But is that really so bad? Phone skills are important if you're an office employee or a PR firm C.E.O. But beyond that, I dare to argue that the phone is almost irrelevant. Even when it comes to long distance relationships, the phone is kind of passe; if you want to see and hear a person, just videochat.

Text messaging is a different story. How many times have I easily gotten out of group study meetings or awkward dinners with ex-boyfriends or unwanted trips to the mall with friends via text message?

It's that whole barrier thing; AIM and, to a lesser extent, text messaging, are so attractive because they gives us the ability to THINK before we speak, something that we sacrifice when we talk on the phone or in person. It allows an eloquence lost in the immediacy the phone mandates.

And for people like me who get swept up by words and phrases and syntax, maybe never talking on the phone again is a legitimate possibility.



Anonymous said...

right on, I am completely and shamelessly phone-illiterate and my 20 mins/month usage on my wireless bill can attest to that

Anonymous said...

jessica roy is the spokeswoman for our generation!