I absolutely despise the autocorrect feature on my phone. Thank you, Apple Corp., but I make plenty of typos and spelling errors all on my own and do not require additional assistance with that particular skill set.
This morning I received a text from my client that was absolute gibberish. English is not his first, second, or even third language, so sometimes when he writes me notes it takes a little work to figure out what it is he is trying to communicate. This morning, though – it was just a mess of letters that meant nothing to me. I replied that something must have happened in the text, because I could not figure out what he was asking or telling me.
Just now he got back to me with an apology – the text was not for me, it was meant for his brother who is “back home” visiting family. He and his family are originally from the middle east, so I assume he was texting in arabic and it came to me via a translator? No idea. There are times I feel barely fluent in english, so anything other than that is well beyond my linguistic ability.
But it got me thinking more about how we communicate.
When I got home from the gym I was my typical chatty self with M, telling him all about my practice today, crossing paths with J, the other ladies I chatted with, the weather outside, seeing our cats prowling around by the front door. Just general day-to-day chit chat. When M was on the truck and gone most of the time, we chatted by phone every day. Sometimes the calls were brief – 5 or 10 minutes – but typically it was a whole day’s events in a longish phone call, depending on his work/sleep schedule and my own.
I do not really miss those days.
After the text came in, I was trying to recall the last time I had was talked about anything of any substance via phone. The Very Bad Incident comes to mind, but that was an emergency situation. Like so many others, we tend to text more than phone unless there is some level of urgency (or I have misplaced my phone somewhere in the house, which is probably a whole other post sometime). Same with my kids – text. If there is a missed call, usually it’s returned immediately; phone calls typically mean some sort of big news or question. Friends it is a mixed bag, person and proximity dependent. I have a few friends I communicate with primarily by email, as that has been our custom for a very long time.
Most of my work-work is done via email and phone with some regularly scheduled in-person visits. I also get text questions or requests from clients thrown in for fun. I do have a group of millennial clients that never phone – they text, they email, periodically they send me stuff (documents where originals with wet signatures and therefore cannot be scanned) via FedEx, but phone? In the last 6 months the only time I have actually spoken to any of them was at in-person meetings. And it’s perfectly fine with me. Peers in similar service fields have some difficulty adjusting.
Truth be told I almost prefer communicating this way, at least when it comes to work. I then have written record of our exchanges and less anxiety about miscommunications and misunderstandings. With family and friends, it’s an evolving process. If I feel some burning need to hear their voices or see their faces, I pick up the phone and suggest we have coffee, or dinner, or just hang out somewhere. Since I am a rare presence on Facebook, I don’t find it becomes the only way I communicate with those nearest and dearest. I do log in and check on what is being discussed or to see new pictures posted, but it’s unusual for me to reach out that way.
On my commute this morning I was listening to a friend vent about only being able to reach her kids via Facebook. I can understand her frustration to a degree, but I also understand busy lives, 2 working parents, very young children. Maybe that is their only way of keeping up with everyone who loves them. Of course, my kids live within a 10 mile radius of my house and hers are on the other coast, so maybe that’s the difference. Maybe I am too understanding? Or the relationship dynamics with my kids could be different. Perhaps geography and grandchildren make a bigger difference than I imagine. Or I am just a less involved, less interested, less caring parent (unlikely, but one never knows). I encourage her to talk to them about how she feels and be prepared with suggestions to improve the situation, assuming she is ever able to get them on the phone, her preferred method of communication.
The world has certainly gotten more complicated as the years have passed. So many new ways to misunderstand and unintentionally inflict hurt feelings trying to stay in touch. Yet at the same time, what a boon to be able to communicate with someone half a world away.