Communicating to Community

Last week my friend sent me a few emails to see if I’d updated my iPhone 4 to the new iOS 5 so that we could use iMessenger from his iPad.  He texted me later to see if I’d updated yet.  And then finally when all apps and updates were downloaded and installed I got immediate messages from my friend on both my iPhone and iPad simultaneously through the iCloud.

Man, when did technology get so egotistical?  I, I, I.

Anyway…this month, which is just a little more than half-way spent, I spoke on the phone for 1676 minutes.  I’ve sent 152 texts.  And I’ve sent 143 emails and probably an equal number of Facebook messages.

I am not a high user.  I am a low user (see infographic below).

But what I’m here to talk to you about is how communication works in community: physical community vs. virtual community.

I live away.  I am a super-transient person with an incredibly high rate of movement domestically and internationally, ranking above military family and just below hobo.  My community is not near me.  So, I have to resort to calling them, endlessly, and texting or sending them messages in order to stay in touch.

Even though I find community wherever I am, there are people I am close to that are not close.  I can’t count how many handshakes I’ve doled out or the number of nods or hellos or even long, in-depth conversations in the last month…mostly because a company isn’t keeping track of them online for me.  After a quick estimate, I’d say less than my telecommunication contact.  But many would argue that the physical forms of communication, the personal and direct, are “higher” than those other, more material, less intimate forms of contact.

It’s often discussed among the older set that the degradation of face-to-face contact with community among the younger generation is real and that there is a loss of the art of graceful human interaction.  But so what?  What happens when you become good at a 25 character form of communication?  Is one form of communication better than another?

I recently sent a Facebook message to someone important only to realize that a phone call would have been the better route.  Dire consequences, I’m afraid.  But when is one method perfect, and when it is just really, really stupid?  A post-it note in someone’s luggage saying, “I love you” is very sweet.  Putting one on the fridge that reads, “I love your sister instead” really doesn’t work.

And when was the last time you wrote a letter?  Huh?  It takes time, energy.  I’d even say it supersedes a phone call in terms of intimacy of communication.  A voicemail is higher than a BBM, but only depending on the content.

What about not replying?  Not replying to a letter is more forgivable than not replying to a voicemail, right?  Something about immediacy.  What about responding to receiving a gift?  That’s like a letter times ten!  What kind of message are you communicating if you don’t respond to that gift, that high form of communication?  Would it be different if it were a gift card?

I don’t think I know the algorithm for all human contact, but would love to hear about your hierarchy of communication and then a flow-chart of responses and appropriate measures of reply.

(here’s that infographic I promised)

Masthead photo coutesy of go ask alice…

One thought on “Communicating to Community

  1. Steve Sloot.

    I like this. A lot.

    I especially enjoyed the hierarchy of communication. Also, there’s something so, so, so special about receiving a letter from someone. It’s why I always tell people to send thank you cards when someone helps them out in some way. The trees can take it…

    What was also surprising is how low you are on the infographic communication scale (not that you communicate with infographs, because you don’t, but that you communicate so “little” with your phone) because I’d champion you as one of my most communicative friends.

    Interesting, is what I’m saying.

    Well done, sir.

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