Now that personal connection in our new digital age takes place largely through the iPhone or the PC, this means that the keyboard itself may be rapidly replacing the human voice as the primary means of human communication. And because this is a significant sea change in how people are relating to one another, it would appear that this rather profound development is going to have to be studied further in order to explore its potential effects on us all. For instance, when certain dynamics like the inflections of people’s voices while speaking to one another are being rapidly replaced by the literal communication inherent in relating to others by keyboard, what changes might that bring in how people understand one another?
Also, when it isn’t possible to interject ironical humor into our communication with each other simply because irony is such an indirect form of communication that relies heavily on such things as the tone of one’s voice, the twinkle in one’s eye, and above all else looking at something in humorous fashion out of the corner of one’s eye where what one says or proclaims to believe is often really a point of view that is in fact the direct opposite of one’s actual meaning, then honest communication between people through humor ends up becoming something extremely limiting like the current LOL tag. And when this occurs, communication through irony or sarcasm becomes rapidly lost in the bargain.
In other words, this new cyber age of ours where the keyboard reigns supreme might well be holding us hostage to a more limited form of communication with each other. In addition, because it has now become accepted practice to respond to others in short bursts through e-mail or text message, rather than through more personal communication over the phone (particularly when one has disappointing news to deliver), we are all likewise becoming hostages to this other abbreviated form of communication in which it might appear strange to others for one to send lengthy e-mails or texts which may potentially get more effectively to the heart of what one wants to say. And so this new form of brevity, like the keyboard, is rapidly controlling us all.
What might make a difference in freeing us from the tyranny of the keyboard and the abbreviated communication that is e-mail or text messages? Perhaps simply a return to an accentuation of the human voice as our primary means of connecting with one another. Yet, it would seem, people are going to have to make a real effort in this direction. In addition, the theater, because it relies so fully on the dynamics of human speech, body language, and facial expressions as forms of communication might be somewhere else where we might look in pursuit of saving ourselves from the rigidity of the algorithms inside our phones and PCs.
Lyn Lesch’s book Intelligence in the Digital Age: How the Search for Something Larger May Be Imperiled was recently published by Rowman & Littlefield and is available on Amazon.