There is no stopping it, and in reality it cannot be considered a negative, but advancements in layman communication have undoubtedly leaped to the forefront of all palpable technological progress. The most striking aspect of this, however, is not how far we have come or the sheer number of media that we now have at our disposal…it is how quickly we have gotten to where we are today. For thousands of years mankind had no more than two significant means of communication at their fingertips with which to address the world…verbal and written. As a species we progressed and evolved from quadruped primates to cave dwellers and nomads to world travelers and intergalactic adventurers. We emigrated from continent to continent, and from farm land into cities. As human beings we made immeasurable advancements and changes to our way of life. One big exception, however, was the art of communication, which slogged on throughout the ages.
Now there is no denying the immense change and progress that language itself has encountered throughout those many centuries. Clearly the wide array of speakers of each language throughout history begot new verbal dialects, all while morphing them into more sophisticated adaptations. Within the “single” language of English alone the written word evolved from the now nearly indiscernible pages of Beowulf to the quirky-sounding verses of Chaucer, to the Wall Street Journal. It is not the perpetuating evolution of language that is so intriguing, but rather what the dichotomy between that evolution and the lack-thereof in its delivery meant to society over time. More specifically what effect is the move toward the modern rapid evolutionary acceleration of that delivery having on us all today?
Certainly there remains the same two prominent original means of communication in present day as existed thousands of years ago. In fact verbal communication (despite the invention of the telephone and its fiber-optic driven cousins) has remained largely undisturbed in its nature, but its usage has plummeted. The act of transmitting the written word…everything from our thoughts and ideas to our emotions and fears, has recently been thrust down new avenues to a staggering degree, and as a result it has reduced the usage of the spoken word to historic lows. How little we truly talk anymore. We relay birthday wishes via a Facebook post, check in with loved-ones through a text, present the biggest revelations in science since relativity via a Tweet, and argue politics over an email. It is as if we are countering thousands of years of biological evolution and advancement with a decade of rapid disintegration of verbal communication. What effect might this be having on the collective personality of the human race? What I noticed this week is that we are we becoming more numb to sheer emotion, more guarded from confrontation, more distant from connection, and more unfamiliar with interaction. As the first generation to know of nothing before the mass-availability of such technology, will our children suffer other unforeseen consequences? There is certainly no turning back now but maybe, just maybe, next time you receive word that your best friend is newly engaged, or your sister finally received that elusive promotion, shut the lid on your laptop and do the unthinkable…pick up the phone.