There is nothing worse than sitting in a stuffy lecture room, listening to someone groan about our futures. But when that sweet, sweet sound of a beep notifies you that a friend has messaged you, the lecture soon becomes more about the endless conversation with a friend than a lecture on life.
In December 1969, an infant network was established at UCLA dubbed ARPANET. Its ability to share information across the world instantly was a huge technological advancement. However, the network’s users quickly warped the “computer-sharing network into a dedicated, high-speed… electronic post- office ” (Sterling 1993, p.2). These users were the pioneers in the breaking down of simple conversation.
The ways in which we communicate now are obviously vastly different to previous generations, there is no denying that. However, previous generations had the ability to walk away and to switch off. Now, we are bombarded with bings, beeps and whistles notifying us that a message has been sent. Because our communication devices are portable and always on, we are less likely to just switch off and it is harder to walk away.
Moreover, the ways in which we communicate with one another are now in short, sharp bursts. Conversations are no longer in-depth, they are snippets of a story providing you with the highlights enabling you to give an answer but never fully understanding the story. I suppose this is why Twitter annoys me so much. The idea that you have to compress your opinions or stories into 140 characters is near impossible when you babble a lot and just want to get the whole story out in one burst. The constant communication over these forms of platforms, has significantly impacted our social skills.I believe that in part Gen Y’s skills are strained whereas Gen Z’s are completely lost. There is an inability to strike and maintain a face-to-face conversation.
Conversely, you have platforms such as Facebook where there is no character limit nor filter on what some people post – no one wants to hear about what your cat just ate and how she/he ate it. Really. Never.
The future of communications is an enthralling thing to watch and experience. However, I do believe that if we are not careful, then face-to-face conversation and letter writing will truly be a thing of the past and this will significantly impact what defines us as humans – our ability to communicate on multiple levels.
Call me a pessimist or a Nana, I don’t mind, but just keep this in mind the next time you meet your friends for coffee and the majority of them are on their phones “just checking the time”.
Sources: Sterling, B. (1993) ‘A Short History of the Internet’, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction http://sodacity.net/system/files/Bruce_Sterling_A_Short_History_of_the_Internet.pdf