Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Email You

"Hey there, kiddo. Been a while since we've been in touch, eh?"

It was that statement, spoken to me over the phone by one of my co-workers, that made me re-examine the "contact" I had with people that I work with. What really made me ponder the notion of communication wasn't that I'd actually been out of contact with my co-worker, but the fact that she'd start a phone conversation like this when I communicated with her daily, sometimes multiple times a day.

I asked for an explanation because, oddly, I'd just been emailing her most of the morning. I didn't understand how we could have been "out of touch". Her response was something I had never thought about--"We haven't talked in a while. Yeah, we email, but that's not real. I'm talking with the fake you."

What's crazy, is I find myself agreeing with her. You're never really you when you're emailing (or texting or instant messaging or, heck, blogging). Every email I send, I end in "Thanks," or something similar. How often are my conversations that way? I know that's kind of stretching in looking for differences as salutations and closing and other such conventions are standard in written communication, but when you get beyond that, email communication is completely different and, the more I really think about it, can't substitute for actually talking to someone.

With email, you gather your thoughts, put them down into a well formed (at least I hope so, but I question how much thought kids put into emails nowadays) communique, and send them to the recipient. The recipient then reads the email, decides upon what his/her response should be, and returns a well thought out communique.

Looking at it in that light, it almost feels like you're communicating with a machine or responding to essay questions that are a part of a never ending exam. There is such little interaction that is spontaneous, emotional, or organic that I sometimes find myself craving for just a quick call with anyone or a chance to talk with someone in the office here, even though no one I work with is based here.

My co-worker is right. Simply emailing back and forth isn't "keeping in touch". It's sending coordinated updates. True communication, in the form of being "in touch", is 100% interactive and takes place simultaneously between two or more people. This is something email, text messaging, or any other form of non-verbal communication will ever be able to accomplish.

So pick up the phone and call someone every now and again. I know it might seem daunting, as I know I sometimes don't take the time to actually call people, but it's light years better than an email.

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