We live in an age of unprecedented communication options. Occasionally one writes letters, although this is becoming increasingly rare. In addition to written materials (remember how newsletters arrived in the mail?) of all kinds through which we might communicate with one another, there is the telephone, which comes in a variety of "flavors" - land lines with cords, land lines with cordless phones, cellular phones and "smart phones" that one can use for voice calls and messages, text messages, and email. Some of you access this blog through a smart phone, too. There is electronic mail, and we might have several e-mail addresses, including Facebook e-mail. There's chat - text chat, video chat, Skype, iChat, Google chat, Facebook chat etc etc etc. And of course there's the internet - folks communicating via weblogs like this one, bulletin boards, Facebook notes, MySpace pages, chat rooms, virtual worlds like Second Life. And Twitter, of course. And television. And radio - hams, CBs, police scanners, digital, subscriber, public...... And .....
What sometimes seems to be getting short shrift in all this communicating, though, is attentive listening. One gets so many texts, emails, notes, Facebook wall posts and all, not to mention the media one subscribes to (newspapers, magazines, newsletters etc) that it is simply impossible to keep up with them all. And so one learns to skim. Just a quick glance at a text gives one the gist of the message. I have learned that certain friends will not read an email that is longer than three sentences - anything at the bottom of a two-paragrapher will not get read. I do it myself - just a quick glance at the inbox before I run out the door, skimming the Facebook feed, giving the newspaper headlines a hurried once-over while eating my morning oatmeal, doing an unbroken double-finger scroll through the various blogs I read.
And so in this age of unprecedented information flow and access, one hardly has time to take in what others are actually saying. One gets half the message, or misses the "not" and gets the opposite message. There is not time or space for body language or voice inflection; there is not time or space for deep listening to one another.
And yet all this communicating we are doing, sending out our status, texting, Twittering, e-mailing, posting on blogs suggests that we really, really want someone to hear us. We really want someone to interact with us. We want people to listen to us. To really listen. We want others to hear our hopes, our fears, our dreams, our disappointments. To share our joy, our happiness, our hard-won successes, in more than 140 characters.
I enjoy all this communication. I love to write and receive e-mails; chatting is fun; texting comes in really handy sometimes; I spend plenty of time reading and writing online and checking in on folks via Facebook. I love that I can be in conversation with a whole bunch of people every day even if I don't leave my house. (This is especially nice when one is sick but not too sick to "computer.") But I am increasingly aware that I am missing out on deep conversation. On listening and being listened to. On hearing the yearning, the joy, the real issue that sits just underneath the surface comment or question.