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The demise of face-to-face communication
Marc Choquette
Perspectives Editor

One thing I?ve noticed around campus in our tech-happy culture is how much we have come to rely on technology for everyday activities that in the past were done in a more intimate ? dare I say humanistic ? fashion.

The examples are countless: the primary form of communication between students and faculty is now through e-mail, whereas it once involved calling up a professor on their extension or even (gasp) visiting them in their office. Prospective students can get a virtual tour of campus and get a good idea of our school environment without even visiting in person. Through social networking sites, you can find out all you need to know about a classmate that catches your eye, instead of the old-fashioned way of actually meeting them.

But perhaps the most convenient (and/or egregious, depending on your view) form of technology is the cell phone. In any given five-minute stroll between classes, we see a mind-boggling number of students with their mobile practically attached to their ear. And with the iPhone, we are enabled to pretty much take part in all of these activities at the same time, regardless of location.

I?m not decrying this communicative evolution that we are constantly on the edge of. Nostalgia always factors in when comparing where we are now to where we used to be, but it is also hard to shy away from these amazing advancements in interpersonal communication. But the important question to ask is what, if any, effect these new forms of technology are having in the way we interact.

For most, the effects are twofold. On one hand, these types of portable, instantaneous tools for connecting with one another have enabled us to network in a way never before seen. These advancements have facilitated the spread of information across the globe at the speed of light. One could certainly argue that, for these reasons, our society has benefited greatly.

On the other hand, since these technologies are so cutting-edge it seems few ever think about how it can also have a negative effect on us. It seems that, despite the ease of staying connected, we have instead become constantly disconnected ? in our own iPod or laptop world. It can even reduce the free time we once cherished.

For example, if your new job gives you a Blackberry to stay in touch, it usually means you?re expected to stay on top of work even when you?re not at ?work.? If you choose to separate your professional and personal life ? which used to be easy ? you may now get fired because you?re not constantly online. It is easy to say, ?If you don?t like it, too bad. We?ll hire someone else.? But the balance of work and play is important for the physical and mental health of a worker. Should this not also be taken into account?

Facebook: another great tool to get to know our peers better, or a virtual crutch for our increasingly detached social lives? Many a time, we catch ourselves browsing around, making subconscious judgments about people we?ve never met because of what music they are into or what political views they have. But what should be of concern is that it has all become so routine that it is almost second nature.

The state of dialogical ethics seems to be challenged like never before. We have numerous outlets now (ones that did not exist even a few years ago) to avoid face-to-face communication, which has always been seen as the most intimate and primary way to communicate. The more indirectly we communicate, the easier it is play the ?game? ? the notion that lying and deception are acceptable when advancing one?s own self-interest.

Will things get so ridiculous that we start texting each other from five feet away? Doubt it, but knowledge is power and understanding what kind of effects these rapid changes are having on us as individuals and as a society is important to recognize, with the hope that we don?t become a bunch of screen-reading zombies that forget how to talk to each other in the ?old-fashioned? way.

Submitted 02-07-2008
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