I was recently required by my employer to buy a new cell phone. I work from home and utilize a VPN and to add extra security to it, our IT department implemented the use of the app ImprivataID. I attempted to download the app on my old phone only to receive an error message. I discovered in order to run the app, my phone required an Android version newer than the one I had. After much grumbling and annoyance, and an attempt to find out if I could be reimbursed for the cost (unfortunately not since working from home is a “privilege” of my position and not a requirement) I ultimately bought a new phone. The upside to this hassle was that Jason and I decided to quit Straight Talk and switch to Xfinity Mobile’s pay by the gig option and are now saving roughly $70 a month.
While my phone is nothing fancy compared to most (it’s a Motorola e5) it’s certainly more advanced than my previous one. This includes a much more sophisticated auto correct feature and something I had never encountered before – suggestive text responses when I receive a message. I was partially disturbed by its ability to anticipate the most likely response. I will admit I have used it on occasion when the suggested responded was actually what I planned to write. The more I’ve thought about it though, the more disgusted I have become by it.
Are we so predictable in responses as a species that a phone can speak for us? Are we that lazy as a species that rather than think up a response we’d rather choose an auto suggested one? Are we even conversing if the person on the other end is doing the same thing in simply selecting the phone’s recommended reply? Are we communicating or are the phones?
As technology advances, our communication options increase in quantity but certainly not in quality. Facebook’s feature to “like” statuses and comments gives people a chance to respond to others without actually engaging with them. Twitter’s character limit promotes writing shallow snip-its vs longer, more well written thoughts. There are numerous other apps that I hear about from my track kids that seem only to encourage quick “check ins” with one another instead of actually chatting.
Case in point – two of my track girls were talking the other day and the one mentioned that she could probably have her mom take the other one home, but she didn’t know where she lived. The other girl told her. Puzzled, I asked weren’t they best friends and if so, why hadn’t they been to each other’s houses already and did kids not hang out in person anymore? The one responded that she would hang out with some of her neighborhood friends, but the other said anytime she invited people to her house they declined and just wanted to Snapchat with her instead. It broke my heart to hear that as I thought about all the time I spent as a teen hanging out in my bedroom with friends or in their bedrooms.
Although it may be considered weird by some, I am quite a fan of just randomly checking in on people who I haven’t chatted with for periods of time. Sometimes I’m inspired by a dream I had involving the person, and other times I just randomly think of them. The spring-like weather recently reminded me of a friend who abhors winter more than I do, and I knew she would be happy to enjoy the warmth. I spontaneously texted her to ask if she was enjoying the warmer temps and we enjoyed a catch up chat. Texting with her reminded me of another friend I hadn’t interacted with in over a year, so I texted her the next day. She was so grateful that I reached out to her. I’m certain my random texts to initiate conversations with these ladies made them feel more cared about as people than a thousand “likes” on their Facebook statuses ever would have.
While the argument could be made that it would’ve been even more meaningful to have called or visited these friends, I prefer to only phone with limited people (years of working for call centers makes you apt to hate the phone in general) and with everyone’s seemingly super busy lives, sometimes a text conversation is the best option. That said I do much more enjoy talking face to face with friends than texting as I find it creates a deeper bond.
Convenience is great, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of deeper connection. I am glad I made the decision to quit Facebook as I feel it has forced me to interact better with people. Blogging affords me the opportunity to meet new people the same way that social media does, but with the added benefit of actually reading about their lives on a deeper level. Technology has enabled us to connect over greater distances and with much more speed and ease, but we shouldn’t allow it to make us lazy in communicating deeper with others.
Do you utilize the suggested text responses on your phone? Do you feel more or less connected due to social media? Do you randomly call or text old friends?