Asynchronous Communication

It’s a weird term I heard used quite a while ago, (then) referring to the email medium; a  high-sounding differentiator from “real time” devices like the telephone. Sherry Turkle’s book, Alone Together (Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other) suggests it’s an increasingly important descriptor for the way we interact.

The mantra of the connected space is seemingly the notion of always “on” and “in touch”. But this immediacy, says Turkle, is being circumscribed by some, perhaps counterintuitive, “rules”, particularly, but not exclusively so, for ‘digital natives’.

For me, the most surprising, is that telephone usage, in a conventional (conversational) sense is largely frowned upon by the younger set. The reason is simple  (and somewhat perplexing): A telephone conversation is a “real time” event.

The prevailing view on telephone dialogue ranges from “intrusive” to “stressful”. Some of the ‘kids’ surveyed admit resentment, in extreme cases, amounting to refusal to take calls even from their own parents (!). While they will happily take and send, in some cases, hundreds of text messages and IM exchanges daily, many, many express an extreme dislike of the direct conversation.

The reasons aren’t uniform, but the gist of the objections seem to revolve around having to focus on a single thing, thinking of “something to say” (on the spot) and losing control over how to “present yourself”.

I don’t know if this is a burgeoning phenomenon; whether it’s problematic, or merely amusing. But it sure seems curious that increasing the potential for connectedness has seemingly seen a corresponding erection of walls to that very same connection.

It might well be a trend that a smart technology company can exploit; building smartphones, but without the phone function. Come to think of it, maybe that’s what makes that iPad thingy so alluring – all connection; no conversation.

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