This past week I was giving a presentation on the internet to high school students and I asked them to name some of the positive aspects of the internet. One of the girls told me she loved it because with the help of sites like Facebook she talked to her friends so much more. I’ll be honest, I was surprised by this comment since increased person-to-person communication is not something the internet is known for. After asking her to explain, I realized that her definition of ‘talk’ had morphed from its classic meaning.
‘Talk’ to high school and college students is any kind of communication that involves a back and forth between two or more people. The instant messaging function on Facebook or typed messages on Skype both count as having ‘talked’ with a friend. Increasingly, the telephone and face-to-face conversations are the rarity. In fact many teenagers and young adults do not like to use the phone, much preferring to text or type the message.
And while, the speed and flexibility that texting allows is a great part of modern technology, it is also making real conversations archaic. With a few finger taps it is impossible to know the person’s tone of voice or true meaning behind the words. It is also possible to misunderstand the message and asking for clarification isn’t always readily possible. There is something still crucial about seeing facial expressions and hearing vocal tones to fully comprehend.
Luckily, when I asked this group of high school freshmen if holding a conversation on Facebook was the same as talking on the phone or in person, everyone admitted that it wasn’t. They knew it was much more possible to be misunderstood and to say things that you would never say in person. And everyone admitted that they had at least had one fight with a friend or relative as a result of new technological communication.