Cutting the ‘shortcuts’

Scrap the symbols and let’s just start talking again

When did we stop talking to each other? When did we decide that texts and emojis could replace a conversation?

Obviously, social media and technology has changed the communication landscape — sometimes it has proven a faster, more convenient way to get one’s message across. Other times, it’s a series of clicks, animated graphics, acronyms and abbreviated words that are easily misunderstood; the context, tone and inflection are lost.

Too often, we offer a “thumbs up” as a way to wrap up a conversation because we supposedly don’t have time to say “good-bye” or “I need to run, can we talk later?”

And it’s not just texting. We avoid dialogue because we don’t want to engage in a substantive debate.

Town hall meetings with congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle, are met with audience members holding up red and green pieces of paper — designed to indicate support or disgust with an idea, policy or proposal.

And in this age of political correctness, it’s just better that we remain “neutral” with our opinions — afraid we might stir up anger and resentment.

It’s understandable. Most of us do not want to offend or cause controversy. We want to be as drama-free as possible.

And as far as time constraints, yes, sending a brief text message probably is a time-saver over picking up the phone or speaking face-to-face.

But we need to make time — we need to re-learn the art of communication.

I have friends with varying political points of view. Our discussions are sometimes heated, often emotional. While we could avoid certain discussions, or just reserve our comments to brief missives on Facebook or Twitter, we lose that connection, that opportunity to see and hear what the other is feeling.

And while holding red and green pieces of paper is much easier than expressing your thoughts, the full measure of what you might want to say will not register with the person you’re hoping will listen.

To be fair, I’m just as guilty as the next person when it comes to offering these “shortcuts” in communicating. And in many cases, offering a “thumbs up” is a good way to acknowledge that you received the message or yes, I can pick up bread and milk at the store after work.

But we’ve replaced substance with symbols — and those symbols will never capture the emotion, the heart, the passion of what we’re trying to get across.

A few weeks ago, I attended a block party where neighbors gathered together to share in food, some fun and no doubt, some good conversation. We need more of that and less emoji-filled rants about what’s wrong with the world around us or holding up pieces of colorful paper that fails to resonate.

Let’s take a step back from our cell phones, our emails and our Facebook and Twitter feeds, and start talking with each other.

No shortcut could ever replace a good conversation.

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Contact Jeff Hutton at 641-753-6611 or jhutton@timesrepublican.com