I have a confession to make. Recently, during a meeting, I texted my wife. It wasn't casual conversation with her; it was to let her know I would be late in coming home. But I still felt guilty about it! It didn't take much of my time to do, but it distracted me from the conversation and it meant I wasn't fully participating or honoring those who were speaking at the time. Was what I did rude? Or was it socially acceptable, kind to my wife in fact, and a good use of my time?
Your answer may depend on what generation you belong to. From what I'm hearing from some younger friends, in the business world it's very acceptable to text during meetings, to respond to emails, even to check the Web. What might be considered distracting and inconsiderate by some, is for others a way of multitasking and engaging in conversations on different subjects with different people simultaneously. The times they are a-changing...
Not too long ago I got an emailed thank-you after we hosted some friends at our house. It's quite common to do this--to either text, email, or Facebook a friend to express one's thanks. Thank-you cards, I suspect, are falling on tough times. It used to be we sent or delivered real gifts in real time; now, virtual flowers, chocolates, and even kisses, are sent via Facebook. And invitations increasingly are coming in Evite format over the Internet. I bet it won't be too long until wedding invitations come this way. Good for the trees, yes. But somehow, it doesn't feel the same...will we lose something as well?
About a week ago, when a contentious subject arose at work, a colleague of mine bravely chose to meet with the person in person and not conduct the conversation via email. What a difference it made! No amount of emoticons can possibly convey what the human face and body language, combined with carefully chosen words, can communicate. Some topics are covered well digitally; others not so much. It takes thoughtfulness to discern which medium to use.
Let's not kid ourselves: the digital revolution and modern communications technology aren't just making our lives easier; in some cases, they may be making them more complicated. Marshall McLuhan's famous quote continues to be apt: "The medium is the message." I welcome your thoughts!