From Soup Cans to Cyber Sharing: Modern Communication & Privacy

“Each person’s life is lived as a series of conversations.” — Deborah Tanner

Some of you who are wise elders will remember a form of communication we did in our childhoods with two soup cans strung about twenty to thirty feet apart with a string or wire, and we pretended they were phones or communicators of some kind. Really! If you put your ear up while the other was talking, you could hear the voice of the speaker across the string. It was a fun way for young children to pretend.

This was also the time of party line phones when you had to wait for your neighbor to be off so you could make a call. Then as technology sped up, we had sleek designer phones with twenty-foot cords so we could talk where our parents could not hear us (or so we thought) and talk for many minutes to our friends. That was in the 1950s. Then in the 1960s and beyond, look what has changed (for you who are much younger listen to this wise elder about the world today).

We must take the time to have real communication with those in our life we care about, either in family or business. Facebook is not really face time. It is devoid of real time, in the moment speaking and listening with no eye contact.

I remember my first fax machine in my psychologist’s office as an exciting way to watch a message or document slowly roll out of a base unit with wrinkled paper smelling of ink, waiting for it to dry sometimes. And my first mobile phone looked like the kind soldiers use in the jungles to communicate with base operations. If I had kept every mobile phone I have owned since 1994 or so, I would have a box of cables with different-sized devices and odd-looking adapters. I would also have a lot more money. Now we have cellphones that are ubiquitous and watches as communicators. Remember Dick Tracy? Okay, you young folks are going to have to ask your parents. Or Google it!

Society today worldwide is now just a phone call, text, or message away instantly. And yet the trend of communication via what is called social media has some dire complications and disturbing implications for human communication and living authentically. Younger people today, millennials, and generation Y (those under forty) are using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share what is sometimes very personal information with photos often included. (I realize there may be new modes and methods by the time you read this.)

And the problem with this as I see it is twofold:

  1. What’s posted on these outlets never goes away in most cases. It’s on the Web and in the cloud. You can take it down, delete, or close your profile, but it’s still discoverable.
  2. This form of communication is not real communication where one can share deeply and meaningfully.

I came across this rap video from an artist named Prince Ea, and it is a very enlightening narrative about the state of our ways of communicating today. In this spoken word piece from Prince Ea, we look at the consciousness of communication, and the American rapper highlights the moments we’re missing when we’re digitally connected. It’s been brought to our attention before, but perhaps with online privacy concerns at an all-time high and a new generation who don’t want their online lives archived, probably we’re witnessing a rebellious backlash against the general movement to everything stored in the cloud and quantified lives.

Can We Auto-Correct Humanity? Why I Refuse to Let Technology Control Me.

As you read or watch this powerful message, think of the deeper meaning. I totally love that I can email people for my business or personal communication asynchronously and let them respond in due time. I also do love texting because that is the prime method of frequent messages or brief updates from my two daughters. But in the context of this book about being more revealing in the right time with the right people, the message is clear. If we rely on mobile devices and social media for regular communication, our brains will probably turn to silicone-based material in the next generation.

We must take the time to have real communication with those in our life we care about, either in family or business. Facebook is not really face time. It is devoid of real time, in the moment speaking and listening with no eye contact. I do realize that it can be helpful to use applications like Skype or video chat and see the person in real time. But direct phone calls can also work. Real communication takes place in real time. Letter writing, emails, and postings can add to the relationship, but they do not replace the powerful communication of real-time dialogue. The other types of virtual connection can punctuate, share, or just test the waters, but wholehearted speaking and listening need to be in a sacred space with a sacred intention.

The trend for lots of cyber-sharing deeply personal information is a dangerous practice both for untrustworthy people who scour the Internet but also because it is like your childhood diary being shown to the world. TMI, or too much information, it is called today. It’s when you want or need to really communicate, find, or develop a few special relationships where you can do that and bare your soul and be naked and safe.

Today’s Generation

Daughter to Dad: Texting Communication: “Daddy, I am coming home to get married soon. Get out your checkbook. LOL I’m in love with a boy who is far away from me. I am in Australia, and he lives in Scotland. We met on a dating website, became friends on Facebook, had long chats on WhatsApp, he proposed to me on Skype, and now we’ve had two months of relationship through Viber. My beloved and favorite Dad, “I need your blessing, good wishes, and a really big wedding.” Lots of love and thanks, Your favorite daughter, Lilly”

Dads reply … also by texting: “My Dear Lilly: Like Wow! Really? Cool! Whatever. I suggest you two get married on Twitter, have fun on YourTango, buy your kids on Amazon, and pay for it all through PayPal. And when you get fed up with this new husband, sell him on EBay. L.O.L. (lots of love), Daddy.”

As I shifted my career from that of a clinical psychologist of twenty years, meeting people in my office of safety and confidentiality, I began to engage in more executive and leadership, which is all life coaching, even if you don’t name it that. However, when I began full-time coaching in 1996, the profession had grown with the Internet and the collapsing of geographical boundaries with it. Although much coaching still took place in corporate offices, it was not expanding to the solo professional or individual looking for a confidante as a coach who could also assist him or her to have more of the life he or she really wanted. And it was now done via phone calls rather than in-person meetings.

As a professional that had been trained and experienced in observing nuances of communication in person (facial expressions, body language, and emotional cues), I was pleasantly surprised at how connected I feel to my coaching clients on the phone, and they report the same to me.

I began to understand that the phone coaching afforded the opportunity for a different and sometimes greater human connection due to fewer distractions in a focused conversation and a type of connection that allowed a certain degree of anonymity to be strength. In other words, I could not see my clients, but I could still feel connected in the space of our shared conversational purpose. Final thought and request for you.

Human connection is important….and some can be done with technology and even in real time, but in person conversation cannot and should not be replaced. So , my request, despite all your online contacts, who around you could you meet with in person and talk, and listen, and care.

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