Communication: Faster, cheaper, (Not necessarily) Better!

I find myself lately reflecting more and more on the subject of Human Communication, specifically the buzz about how the evolution of technology is pouring into the interest of enhancing communication among people. Many are the examples we’ve seen in the past very few years that reveal the truthfulness of the above; Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, and more recently, Viber, Tango, WhatsApp are nothing but a basic example of how much Telecom engineers are eager to sustain Human Communication.

The reason of my reflection is not to contemplate the power of those new communication tools, as nobody can deny the ingenious innovation revealed in such sophisticated yet so user friendly tools. Rather, I am intensively thinking of whether these tools are actually realizing the goals for which they were developed i.e. to render Human Communication More, Better, Faster, and Cheaper.

It is probably a settled argument that communication tools have indeed made communication faster and cheaper, yet, the big question remains: Did they make human communication Better?!

Well, judging by what we are witnessing in terms of global conflict, wars, armament races, fanaticism, and revolutions, one can confidently say that communication is only getting worse, regardless of all the tools that have been recently developed in support of it! Still at the micro level, could Communication be getting better?

Let us reflect on life at the time when there was no Laptops, no Mobiles, no Internet, no Emails, no Skype, no smart phones, no nothing of those; just a simple landline and mostly a Post Office. Was Human Communication then better or worse? My belief is that Communication then was more and better. The reason is that people then missed talking to each other and hence always looked to reaching out and communicating. Now with the abundance of communication tools, a strong feeling was projected leading us to consider that everybody we know is reachable anywhere anytime (in voice and in image), and at almost no cost. This fact could have contributed to reinforcing our feeling of taking Communication for granted.

Take this experiment for the sake of social science! Try to call ten people you know and count how many of them would actually pick the call on the spot. If you have above 50% success rate, congratulations, you fall within a highly active communication circle. My estimation is that a 50% success rate is very unlikely. Still, even if you try to send someone a text message (of any type) or maybe an email, or a LinkedIn message you would also get varying results. What is the lesson learned here?

Advanced communication might have led us to confuse between being able to contact any person any time, and the probability that this person will pick up! In other words, true that all hi-tech communication tools enable us to call any time, but the decision to pick up is still the prerogative of the receiver! What I am trying to highlight here is that, modern communication tools will only remain mere hi-tech applications if they are not utilized appropriately and wisely by people. More communication tools surely indicate more effective and smooth means for communicating, but do not necessarily mean more quality communication among people.

Have you been in an Airport, a train, or a bus lately? Just try to recall how many people, men, women, kids, had their head held up? How many of those had their faces turned to the person beside them for a chat? How many were just sitting there with no device in their hands? Now, how much Human Communication is there in this scene? True that the person on the other side of the machine is a parent, friend or a colleague, but let’s think of it; how profound and clear can a dialogue be when it happens virtually; when key elements of the effective communication process, like body language, tone, and/ or voice are not secured? The question is: in going full throttle into communication technology tools are we compromising our competence for social interaction? Whatever happened to intellectually stimulating dialogues? Whatever happened to shrewdly smart conversations? Whatever happened to sarcasm, analytical discussions, and beautiful articulation of vocabulary?

Now many would consider my statement as undermining for all the ingenious minds who invested thousands of hours to bring the World to our iPhone. Some might see it as a call for conventionalism, or even an attack on modernization. Well, it is neither of the above! All what I am trying to say here is that advanced communication technology might have made communication faster and cheaper, but it did not necessarily make it better, as Great Communication remains at the discretion of the individual and his level of intellect.