Reaching out is easier than ever, but... better?

“U c that game”

“Crazy”

“Right?”

That was an actual conversation I had with a friend last weekend. There were no text messages sent between us for almost 19 hours before that one came to my phone, and no other new ones for more than 25 hours after the fact. Friends for more than 30 years, living two time zones apart — and that was the entirety of our conversation.

It’s not exactly out-of-character, either. We probably “talk” four or five days a week, rarely participating in discourse that lasts longer than 10-15 text messages at a time. And that’s if we’re feeling particularly “chatty.” Sure, there are times when one of us will pick up the phone to talk when there’s something of importance to discuss, or one of us thinks of a particularly offensive insult for the other, but usually it’s, well, brief.

And that’s fine.

Technology has made communicating with people so much easier, regardless the distance between them. Sure, there were advancements long before the silicon chip came into our consciousness (Pony Express, Western Union, the telephone, etc.), but the Western Union guy didn’t fit in your pocket and double as a Sudoku machine. We are truly “reachable” at nearly every moment of our lives now, and that means we can basically reach out to one another for even the most mundane of conversations.

Remember when long-distance phone calls cost $9, two chickens and one heir per minute? You didn’t call your friend to ask, “Hey, what was that song that was playing in the bar when the guy tripped over the mop bucket and did a face-plant into the cigarette machine,” did you? Of course not. But you might shoot a friend a text, or a PM, or a DM, or an email or any number of ways that make an instant or near-instant connection.

And that’s a good thing. I like staying involved with people from different chapters in my life, even if it’s through quick “hits” here or there. I like that I can answer someone when I’m free to do so instead of pulling myself away from whatever I’m doing to take a call. I like being able to go back through a conversation to find something from a few weeks ago that I couldn’t quite remember all the way.

Alas, there are also a few negatives with these new avenues of conversation.

Obviously, the depth of a conversation suffers a bit when it is limited to a sentence or question at a time. It’s also hard to convey that you are speaking sarcastically, or genuinely, with a statement that can mask your true intent. 

There has also been a global catastrophe in regards to what has happened to our collective ability to utilize grammar or properly spell out words. I know it’s easy to use shortcuts in texts or online, and I honestly do it far more often than I should, but I fear that this is yet another brick in the wall of the dumbing down of our society, and that the zombies are just going to rise up and defeat us once they realize that intelligence is no longer our shield against...

But I digress.

The fact of the matter is that I do miss when my friend and I would sit down with a couple beers and talk face-to-face for five hours at a time. But another fact of the matter is that we now live far apart, have different careers, families and other responsibilities in our respective lives. 

Before texts and social media and all that (well, at least until we became aware of texts and social media and all that), we’d talk every couple months — maybe a little bit more frequently during fantasy football season when one of us could boast superiority to the other. Now we engage much more frequently (though we still behave childish by any metric).

I’m going back and forth on this subject, aren’t I? Well, besides the fact that I’m a terrible writer who struggles with pace, structure and chronolgy, I kind of go back and forth in my heart on this topic.

See, I find these shortened methods of conversation and human interaction to be a positive when it comes to keeping in touch with people who live far away or just aren’t in your regular orbit anymore. It’s easy to encounter a situation of “out of sight, out of mind,” even with people who you genuinely care for and appreciate, when you don’t have that consistent interaction with them. By keeping in constant contact, and staying up-to-date with people who you don’t see everyday, you maintain that relationship, at least to a certain degree.

On the flip side, the conversation isn’t particularly significant for the most part, and we are assaulting the English language with an armory of misspelled words, dangling participles, ridiculous abbreviations and poop-shaped emojis. 

As is the case with most things, we take the good with the bad. TTYL.