To Text or Not to Text – Whatever Happened to Direct Human Connection?

Hello again everyone,

eca5895b3e7898193c8084d9ae71cf56How true? :p

Let’s start with these 3 simple questions.

  1. When was the last time you call someone you haven’t met for a while just to have a chat and catch up (either on the phone or call to arrange a meetup)?
  2. How often do you check your social media accounts, e.g.: facebook, twitter, path, instagram?
  3. If you have to decide the ratio (by %) of the way you keep in touch with your friends and family, what would it be? Normal sms/whatsapp/LINE/others VS. talking on the phone/video call/direct one-to-one or group meetup.

What are your answers?

If you were to ask me these questions 3 months ago, these would be my answers:

(FYI, I have Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, LINE, Whatsapp, Skype, 500 free local SMS & 200 mins free outgoing calls per month)

  1. Hemm…almost none. Oh wait a minute, 3 months ago, I think I called my mom and dad back at home once or twice a week, quite frequently. I’d usually use an international calling card, but nowadays my whole family has this LINE account and we have a group chat where we can discuss/update any random things we can think of during the day and even send some cute stickers without even typing a single word. Well…well…all at our own convenience! We’d previously have a video call (via Skype) but we sort of gave it up due to the lousy connection. Recently, I’ve been asking myself: Is it enough to just use a group chat to update on your daily life, especially with your family? Will the reason ‘it’s convenient’ be good enough to make up for the lost of direct personal human connection like hearing voice or seeing each other face-to-face?
  2. During my obsessive days, I’d conveniently tap on all the apps I have on my mobile when I wake up, while I’m in the train, during tea break, before I go to sleep, in every idle time that I could possibly have. Now that I think about it, it’s insane how much time I’ve wasted to check if my ‘friends’ shared any worth-reading news or articles.
  3. Three months ago, the ratio of the way I keep in touch with:
  • my close friends (here or overseas) would be 80/20: 80% chatting in WA, LINE, FB messenger, Gtalk; 20% meetup during the weekend for movies/lunch/dinner, gatherings, birthday celebration, volleyball games. I hardly skype with my friends overseas. We’d mostly chat using all modes available.
  • acquaintances/friends I haven’t talked to in ages would be (if I care enough) via FB profile, just to see what they’re up to (virtual stalker).
  • family would be 50/50: use international calling card, skype, LINE, free LINE call and obviously visit each other:).

With such advanced technology available around us, we can stay in touch everyday despite the distance. As long as both parties are willing to maintain the communication, there’s nothing impossible. Maybe the only drawback for any long distance relationships is the lack of physical touch. You can’t hug and kiss them all you want. Otherwise, all is well. Convenience and practicality are what we value most from using all these social medias, but how about the deeper and more meaningful human connection

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Amid all the convenience of peeking into everyone’s life through their social media profiles, I certainly don’t want to lose my ability to have verbal communication with anyone. However, due to the influence of my introverted traits, talking and telling stories are difficult chores for me. So everyday, I have to make conscious decision to speak up more and verbally share my stories, instead of posting status or blog post everyday:p. Although blogging about what I have in mind can be a very therapeutic activity, I still want to get the most out of my social life.

I used to have these limitations that I impose upon myself, stuff like: I’m not a very good story teller“, “I’d rather listen to what my friends have to say“, “I can relax and just respond with an ‘oh’ or ‘alright’, instead of thinking of the next interesting things to say or express my own opinion“, “I’m not good at talking about my feelings verballyand all other excuses to avoid speaking and be the center of attention. Anyway, I think I’ve changed a little bit from this version of me. Nowadays, I talked a lot more within my circle of close friends, with all the familiar faces. I hope I’ll find the balance between listening & talking and stay true to my ambivert self :p

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I’d like to believe that the social media craze will NOT totally replace all our traditional modes of communication any time soon. We still need to see each other and hear stories in person, don’t we? I was guilty of over sharing and obsessive mindless scrolling of fb wall feed in the past. I’d often catch myself looking at my phone and staring at the same wall posts that I’ve just read 20 minutes before. 

So one fine day, I had a sudden revelation and felt that enough is enough. I should do other useful things (like writing this blog) instead of looking at random posts from some ‘friends’ whom I hardly talk to. What a waste of time! So that day, I deleted fb app from my phone and deactivated my account  (yeah yeah, half-hearted attempt to disconnect. Apparently, deactivating and deleting account are two different things). I took a short break from fb just to re-arrange my mind and sort out my mindless scrolling obsession. Moderation is the key for my sanity.

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After a while, I realized that by deleting the fb mobile app from my phone alone, I could feel that my life is peaceful once more. I didn’t let my mind go to an overdrive by comparing my life with others’ at the convenience of a single tap *yeah I’m using one of the Android smart phones*.

Ironically, instead of simplifying the way we communicate, technology might actually affect the quality of our communication, over complicating our ways to stay in touch with everyone (due to the many options available) and create all sorts of misunderstandings. There are many different situations where we can really see how direct human connection is often interrupted by technology and relationship areas that are affected by social media addiction:

1) At social or group gathering

Some obvious symptoms:

  • Every gathering will have 1 dedicated group chat with all the members in the group.
  • When you reach the place where you agreed to meet, instead of calling (which is an obvious faster way to check on your friends’ whereabouts) you ask for their locations in the group chat.
  • Once you meet, you’ll say hi and start getting busy with your gadget again (this is the annoying part).
  • Chit chat over dinner and snap some pictures of the food before eating them (me, guilty of this too) –> I used to straight away post the photo on fb when I was still in my over-sharing syndrome. I don’t do it anymore nowadays and have tried to enjoy the food right in front of me instead of being busy uploading the photos.
  • At the dinner table, 1 or 2 of your friends will show signs of boredom and start taking out their gadget again: smiling at the phone while typing, playing some games, scrolling the wall feed. Not interested in listening or talking to the rest of the groups (most annoying part). What’s the point of having a dinner gathering then?

These symptoms are less obvious if you meet your friend one-to-one. It’s very disrespectful for the person if you just focus on your phone when he/she is right in front of you. I was guilty of doing this at some point and I’m now breaking away from that bad habit. Put aside my phone and focus on the person in front of me and just have a good conversation. No distraction. We could do that 5-10 years ago, how difficult can it be?

2) On holiday/vacation trips

Most of us go on a holiday to relax and release the stress we’ve accumulated daily in our busy life and work. It’s only natural that when we’re on our vacation, we don’t want to hear anything about work, obligations and responsibility.

Unfortunately, nowadays we’re so attached to our mobile phone and the social media apps in it, that we feel that we have this pseudo-obligation to give real-time updates on EVERYTHING. We exist online and are always connected. We shouldn’t have to be like this, right? We shouldn’t have to give real-time updates during our holiday. Isn’t the purpose of holiday to relax and unplug? Instead of relaxing and getting back in touch with nature, why are we so busy taking pictures and immediately look for wi-fi and upload them instantly? 

For me, taking loads of photos? definitely YES! It’s for my personal record for when I want to look back and see the places I visited or the food I ate. Keep it to myself? YES! I can always share them when I’m back from my vacation and sort out the pictures. What’s important is to ENJOY THE MOMENT! Don’t worry about immediately sharing your photos for the world to see! The world won’t miss it anyway.

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3) At workplace

If you want something to be done faster, you gotta approach someone in person and personally ask them either face-to-face or by phone. It’s not rocket science. Any method that utilizes direct human connection involving facial expression/voice is generally more effective. Email or IM chat or (worse) whatsapp group is not the best way. There will be a lot of misunderstandings. So just be safe and effective, use the direct human approach at your workplace. Most of them are just some cubicles away or a phone call away. So why complicate things? Just walk over and talk.

4) Boyfriend-Girlfriend Relationship (BGR)

How does boy meet girl? Here are 2 different scenarios.

Traditionally

Courtship boy attracted to girl. He tries to talk to her using many different excuses and pick up lines. They hit it off instantly and become friends. Talk over the phone everyday, sharing stories. Go out on a date every weekend (meetup). And they officially become a couple after 2-3 months.

Modern

Courtship (Dating phase – getting to know each other)boy saw girl’s online profile. Ask mutual friend to introduce to girl or directly send her online message. They become friends and JUST chat everyday. Or boy and girl were old school friends. Found each other through FB, exchange numbers and start chatting via whatsapp. Phone calls have been replaced with late night chats. Boy picks up the courage to ask girl out and finally they are officially a couple after 3-6 months dating.

Do you notice any difference? Well, we’re so spoilt for choice but yet we tend to use the one mode of communication that’s the most convenient without considering the depth of connection, especially during courtship. I’ll leave the answers for discussion and leave it to the experts to answer. I’m not sure which is the best way during courtship. Which generation do you belong to? Do you think traditional method is still the best way to get to know someone? Or the modern one?  just chat and no phone/video call?

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5)  Family

My 3 siblings and mom have this LINE group chat where we can just randomly update anything everyday. Because all of us live in different cities (only my little sister is in the same city as me), it makes this group chat option a very good way to keep in touch with one another, with very minimum obligation to reply promptly. Of course, I’ll still make some time to call or video call once in a while and go back home every year. No social media or chatting apps can beat communicating with your parents face-to-face. I can’t wait for my Chinese New Year trip back home!!! *humming Daniel Powter’s Next Plane Home*

6) Friends

Out of the 700++ friends you have in FB, how many of them do you actually talk to (in real life) on a regular basis? Probably around 40-50 people.

Before the social media era, there were only two types: friends or best friends. But nowadays, there are many different types of friends: close real-life friends, facebook friends, instagram friends, blogger friends, some old friends who stay in another country (whom we only know what they’re up to from occasional updates on their wall feed), high-schools friends, primary school friends (haven’t talked to them in ages), etc etc.

So seriously, can we even call this superficial interaction as ‘friendship’?

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For now, I’ll still keep my social media accounts for these following purposes:

– to keep my travel photos (when I feel like showing off:p)

to occasionally update the crowd with my new blog post or videos that I like (social medias help to increase blog traffic and what if my posts can someday become an inspiration for random readers out there? you wouldn’t want to miss out on those people, would you?)

to read some breaking news or inspiring articles that go viral (just to update myself with the latest trends around me)

Folks, despite the fact that social medias have drastically changed the way we communicate with each other. Some of us can’t part with it yet. So I salute you, whoever you are, who can just delete your accounts without feeling nostalgic at all.  I believe that we could always maintain the relationship with traditional modes of communication. The new ways are just there to enhance the old ones, to make it easier and cheaper for us to connect. So embrace them but don’t make them the ONLY mode of communication with your beloved ones. You’ll hinder the creation of deep and meaningful connections.

Moderation is the key!

Cheers,

Sien

*getting rid of bad habits (in progress)

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4 thoughts on “To Text or Not to Text – Whatever Happened to Direct Human Connection?

  1. With the current technology, people using text to communicate with each others. How often they will call and talk to each other unless is a very urgent matter.
    They already speak out what ever they want through text, so when they meet up each other it’s already out of topic to talk.

    • yeah I do agree that phone call is mostly reserved to some urgent matters but I heard from one of my colleagues *grin*, she and her husband used to talk on the phone EVERYDAY when they were still boyfriend and girlfriend, on top of the weekend dating. So there are people who prefer to talk to each other regularly instead of just using texts. You can hear the voice and feel the mood of your bf/gf for that day. I think it’s the deeper connection you get out of the daily calls, as opposed to just long-winded chat nights. Or maybe you can mix them up? You should also discuss important matters face-to-face instead of using text or phone calls. I guess it really depends on the person’s preference?

  2. First of all, you are a good writer. I usually get bored reading long story unless it’s written by my favorite bloggers. And now you’re one of them.
    Well I’m the kind of person who didn’t really take social media seriously. I like to show off and I like attention, what’s wrong with that? But honestly I only open my facebook/instagram/path when I’m bored or alone or during my bathroom break (yes don’t ever touch my phone)
    When I’m with friends and with Bandi I forget about my phone. 🙂 simply because I love traditional approach. I love hanging out, gossiping, giggling. Hahahaha
    Thankfully I started dating in a traditional way and I LOOOVVED that! The feeling of waiting him to pick you up for a first date!!! 🙂
    Hey maybe we should hang out sometime! 🙂

    • Awww thank you for your kind words May!! :):) Kinda different from me, I do think that whatever you share on your wall post is a reflection of your thought and values in a way. So if anyone shares endless rants of complaints or some useless stuff that I don’t wanna see (by my own definition), I’ll either hide them, never to see their posts again OR ‘unfriend’ them. Really no hard feeling there because it’s JUST a facebook ‘friend’. It’s better to have REAL friends in REAL life right? However, I do admit that social media is a really good self-marketing tool (one click and you share it to some 700 ‘friends’ you have and that ‘friends’ have another 500++ ‘friends’, it goes on and on…) and good platform for people like me (sometimes:p) who are lazy and like to know what people are up to without personally asking them by sms/phone calls.

      Nowadays, after I uninstall fb app from my phone, I only check fb when I’m bored or need to see my notifications. No more mindlessly scrolling wall feed:)

      “When I’m with friends and with Bandi I forget about my phone. 🙂 simply because I love traditional approach. I love hanging out, gossiping, giggling. Hahahaha. Thankfully I started dating in a traditional way and I LOOOVVED that! The feeling of waiting him to pick you up for a first date!!! :)”

      –> I totally agree with THIS!!! Love it. Wish the traditional way is still here for long time to come (despite all the distractions). But if it’s long distance, then you gotta rely on technology, yes? Visiting each other is also necessary but it’s pricey. Haha. *kantong jebol*

      Yeah when?? we should HANG out!! Weekend lunch maybe? :):)

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