Our Dangerous Digital Divide

One day my friend Danny Brown and I are going to meet in person and get a chance to toast the memory of our departed friend Leon Noone.

And if asks me to answer, Do You Ever Want to Just Switch Off the Digital Lights? I will say…sometimes.

Because I’ll think about the dangerous digital divide that I saw in 2016 and remember how destructive the presidential campaign was to friendships.

I’ll think about how many people shouted at each other digitally and tried to prove/disprove their point by claiming their fake news was real.

But mostly I’ll think about how many of us have let the digital world take over our telephone calls and letters.

Granted your experience may be different than mine, but I am willing to bet if you took a poll and asked people if they prefer a text message to a telephone call the texts would win.

They’d sweep the popular and electoral college votes and I’d nod my head.

Because I get it, text is easy and convenient.

It is also among the hardest ways to engage in real communication.

communication

Real Conversation

I think the prior two posts to this one were pretty good and I know some people missed reading them because of the headlines.

They looked at those headlines and assumed they knew what was inside and spent their time elsewhere.

I can’t fault them for that because I understand busy. I often find myself among the text and not talk crowd.

But I am trying hard to move some of those conversations into actual talk, either face-to-face or by telephone.

It is too hard to explain and describe some things in my life via text. I say that knowing I am good with words and capable of communicating complicated thoughts/ideas with them.

Except I don’t want to talk about some things that way because they are too important to me and I need the back-and-forth of a dialogue to know I am being understood.

To know that I am being heard.

That is part of what is disappointing me in the digital world, we all want to be heard and we are not.

What Is Real & What Is Not

My soon to be 16-year-old son looked at the two pictures below and shared his candid thoughts with all of the grace a teenage boy could muster.

“Dad, I don’t like the beard. The first picture is really fake and the second one makes you look kind of angry.”

img_0289

and

img_0283

Something about his comment reminded me of when he was about three and would tell me not to make the angry face.

Typically it only came out if he was in trouble so if he saw it and was convinced he hadn’t done anything wrong he would tell me he didn’t like it.

That is the beauty of a 3-year-old, their hands can be covered in pudding and they can tell you they did nothing wrong.

Anyway, it also made me think of a day I took him to see the trains at Travel Town in Griffith Park.

There was a homeless man who was clearly out of it and he was sort of doing a half shuffle, kind of soft shoe like dance in our direction.

My son looked at him and the guy growled, which led my son to yell, “Dad, make the angry face at him.”

But a lot can happen in 13 years and a little boy can become a teenager who doesn’t worry about the angry face anymore.

A time when he is beginning to be certain he knows a lot more about life than his dad.

Conversation Versus Text

Had that conversation taken place over text I am certain his words would have sounded much harsher than he intended them to sound.

I know he wasn’t trying to offend me and though the lack of grace in delivery was still present in the verbal offering I didn’t care.

Primarily because I know him well enough to recognize the true intent and teenage nuance.

But in general a lot of conversations don’t seem to be taking place that way.

They are coming in waves of pixels in which we can’t see facial expression or tone of voice.

It concerns me and I cannot help but believe there is a negative impact from the lack of face-to-face or verbal communication.

I know there are people in my life who have stuff going on that I don’t know about and vice-versa.

If we don’t bridge the gap I expect it will just grow larger.

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