If you’ve been following me on Facebook or Goodreads, you know that I have been entrenched with reading Middlemarch by George Eliot over the last week or so. I have happily found what I hope to be an intriguing thesis for my pending paper with this class in Victorian literature, and that thesis is going to center around problems in communication in this novel and in Victorian society as a whole. Then I got to thinking…
Today we [granted, we being loosely referred to as most of us] live in a world where we’re surrounded by every convenience. We have been empowered by technology that allows us to communicate around the world with the idle pressing of a few buttons, yet it seems as though these conveniences have come to be a convenient excuse to either communicate poorly or not to communicate at all. Over the last few years I have noticed a few trends swelling. Of course we all know that language is an organic thing that is constantly evolving and gaining complexity, so let me try to decode some of this for you. The following chart may serve as a translation for when you invite someone to do something:
|They say…||They mean…|
|Yes.||Maybe, unless I find something better to do or decide to be lazy.|
|No.||Do I even know you?|
Or, alternatively, when you invite someone to do something, they’ll just flat out ignore you. Given countless scenarios over the last year, I’m often left in positions like this:
I invite someone to do something and they accept, knowing full well after having translated their response into modern flakeEnglsh means that this is only really a “maybe,” but I don’t want to make alternative plans with someone else in case the “maybe” under the surface blossoms into a legitimate “yes”; on the other hand, I’m locked in to committing my invitation to a “maybe” and often find myself holding the bag because the person has indeed decided to flake. More generally, I suppose that texting and Facebook has made it very easy to flake out. Only a few years ago, people weren’t available during every second of the day. If you made plans with someone, that person might be out of the house (ergo unavailable for mobile communication) an hour or two in advance, so if you didn’t cancel in time, you’d just be standing them up…and we wouldn’t want to do that, now would we? That’s rude. It’s much better to text at 1:45 when you’ve planned meet at 2:00 and write “sry something came up. raincheck?”
Now call me old fashioned, but in my day, when one said “Yes” to something, they made it their business to do it. It was also common courtesy to thank someone for inviting them to do something with them regardless of offering one’s acceptance or one’s regrets. This is
not [apparently it is] rocket science. This is along the lines of “please” and “thank you.” Am I right? Honestly: In this aforementioned world of empowered communication, how difficult is it to take two seconds to text, five seconds to email, or–call me crazy–one minute to call someone and say, “Thanks so much for inviting me to […]; I’d like to, but I can’t. Maybe next time?” In my world, when a friend invites me to do something and I am unable to do it, I always thank them for thinking about me and make it a point to try to invite them out some time in the near future to return the favor.
Am I crazy for thinking that this is dead simple? Is this not common courtesy?
Surprisingly, there is very little information available on the Interwebs about why people have become so flakey. I wasn’t able to find any real social or psychological research on this topic, but a lot of people are complaining about it. Add me to the list. I wish to surround myself with those who are moved by the Dalai Lama’s sentiments: put your busy life into perspective and ask yourself if you’re happy with your social life as it exists now! After all, the only real validation we have for our existence in this world is our relationship and our ability to communicate with each other. Relationships are at the heart of the human condition. Don’t fail at the human condition.
Catherine BellOctober 20, 2011 at 7:40 pm
Add me to the list, too. I’ve always suspected there was an “old soul” lurking in Jeremiah. Perhaps that’s why I’m fond of you. While current technology opens a wonderful world of information and provides immediate “communication”, it also tends to diminish real human interaction and it often ignores true human emotion/commitment. [e.g.: When one says “Yes”, it’s not always sincere.] Texting allows one to say things in a way one would not respond personally because it’s technology to technology, not face to face, thus removing the vital human element. One can only wonder how it would have been in the days of “Middlemarch”, had they held communication in the palm of their hands. It will be a great thesis subject.
Jeremiah HenryOctober 20, 2011 at 9:23 pm
You know, I truly do appreciate having inherited an “old soul,” but I truly do wish that the “young souls” out there could absorb some values from the old.
JoshOctober 20, 2011 at 9:18 pm
Could this be a means of subverting emotional connections to circumvent the pain that arises when such relationships fall into turmoil or are dissolved? If everyone is kept at arms length, outside a technological buffer zone, then it reduces ones vulnerability and chances of being harmed. commitment, of any kind = vulnerability
Jeremiah HenryOctober 20, 2011 at 9:22 pm
Insecurity, vulnerability, and miscommunication all synergizing? My my…Josh, where have we seen this before?