still miscommunicating?

Humans have used words to communicate for thousands of years. Our vocal chords were designed for speech. They are what differentiate us from the rest of the animals. (Well, that and our bipedal stature, our beautiful and complicated brain, and our  lips made for kissing). Yet, somehow, men and women cannot seem to understand each other after all this time.

Recently I have begun to wonder if this failure to communicate  is a more recent development caused by  advancements in technology happening far faster than we can evolve to mentally accommodate.  Or have men and women have been miscommunicating the hell out of each other since we were dwelling in caves? It’s possible. But I harbor a sneaking suspicion that our ancestors did not sit around the campfire analyzing emails, parsing text messages and discussing why a certain caveman never called.

I imagine communication was much clearer back then. Chances are, if the guy never responded it was because he never made it back from the hunt. And you could probably tell if he was interested simply by the way he grunted at you. (Then again, things may not be all that different after all.)

For some reason, I don’t think our ancestors really had time to worry about the extras … can he program the remote? Does he remember to put the seat down? Can he change a tire? I am pretty sure they just wanted someone who brought food back to the cave and could identify his own children. So while language is what makes us special, I am wondering if it is also our downfall. Language likely came about to  relay important messages to each other such as –  fire! bear! poison! check out the legs on that one, etc.

I wonder if as we evolved and found more inventive ways to communicate with each other – did it only complicate matters? As an English major in college I was taught to analyze language and pay close attention to word choice, tone and context in order to properly understand passages. I feel this gives me a slight advantage over some folks. But … still. If talking in person is difficult, just imagine  throwing in the additional complexity of talking over email, telephone and Twitter. You have much less information to go on. Suddenly you are without visual cues, and in some cases, you  don’t even have the tone of voice and the intonation to follow. See my point?

And  because humans are so clever and have mastered the art of manufacturing leisure time, now do we just have too much time to sit around in our own heads and confuse ourselves even more? I ask because over the past week I have had some rather interesting conversations with girl friends of mine. On Thursday I was in the kitchen with my roommate pondering the possibilities behind the meaning of the phrase “old friend.” [term of endearment, don’t worry about it.] Sunday I was  summoned to the couch of another friend to analyze text messages and IMs from a boy. This is what he said – but what did he mean? We spent four hours crafting a two sentence text message to a boy. [Hi, how was your night?]  Really. And yesterday I was sent an email thread to dissect.

HER: So, do you think I should freak out?”

ME: No. I think he knows you want to talk. I think he is ready to have a conversation with you.

But the more I think about it, I am less convinced that talking will clarify anything at all.

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