Sunday, 8 December 2013


Something that's been rolling about in my head for a while is how weird communication is. We live in a world that's replete with ways to talk to each other but it only seems to make it more tenuous.

Most of us have probably sent emails that we feel are urgent, only to receive the inbox version of a tumble weed. We do it with texts too, letting them sit on our phones, unanswered. I suppose we do it because they lack the immediacy of a phone call; they're static things that don't complain they're neglected, in direct contrast to the nagging tone of the telephone. Even if the person who sent them is going frantic because the lack of response looks and feels galling, we can just ignore them: the object is divorced from emotion, and from time.

Social media seems to have the same timeless feeling. Something I tweeted ages ago (which went through to Facebook) sat untouched on my feed for ages. I expect that sort of  reaction with Twitter because, to be honest, I barely use it and I'm a novice there. Posting the same thing direct to Facebook over a month later, brought more responses but it looks as if people are still finding it. In some ways that's rather lovely, like having a tiny little surprise hidden on my timeline but it seems odd at the same time. It makes time feel chopped up, rather than linear.

You can be a time traveller at a click of a button, even if it is only in cyberspace (though that arguably applies to the whole internet).

To an extent this tendency to ignore the written is natural, most of what suggests communication is urgent relies on visual things, on things hardwired into body language; not a little red flag or sound effect.The rest of it is in the voice, not the words but the pitch, tone etc.

I like it, myself, but that's because my brain remembers things I read far more efficiently than things I hear. I appreciate the clean lines of it too, the fact that to use it properly you almost have to unpack what you're saying is something I find helpful as it lets me understand my point better. I do understand why other people aren't comfortable with it. I'm trying to cut back on the amount of email I send but I also think its important to understand there's a difference between saying, briefly, that you would like to discuss it face to face and just ignoring it. For one thing one opens up the experience of communication and the other is, to my mind, just rude (if inevitable).

I don't know what the solution is and obviously I'm not saying that you should answer all email, especially if the sender's offering you amazing deals on enlarging your penis or the chance to get lots of money from Nigeria. Those are definitely things to stay away from. I suppose I'm just noting the strangeness of it and the time twisting nature of the 'net and offering a plea to respond to emails or (safe) things you find on the 'web. There's someone else on the end of that email, waiting for your response after all.

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