CBS Sunday morning opened yesterday with a feature about communication, or the lack of it, centering primarily on smartphone use and whether or not such use was detrimental. Is a cell phone physically harmful? If the user isn't paying attention and walks off a train platform onto the tracks - yes. Having access to the Internet for research is helpful and even stimulating; converting all communication to texting and Facebook isn't.
I state at the outset that I love my smartphone. It is a terrific tool and helps me do many things more efficiently. I confess that I rarely text beyond the simple 'where to meet and when' types of messages. I find a phone call is often more efficient if the message is a complex one.
While watching the news piece, I suddenly had a concern about smartphone use that was not mentioned. I wondered how world leaders in the next generation will communicate if they merely text one another.
Some will say that instant communication can bring nations together. I totally agree - as long as we are talking about the general population. However, it is the leaders of nations who determine inter-global relationships. If they never meet face-to-face, how are they to judge intent? You can't see a smile in a text. Does an emoticon truly replace expression? Of course not. Anyone can insert an LOL or a smiley face when what they really mean is that they intend to start a war. Without face-to-face or voice-to-voice dialogue, it is impossible to interpret body language or vocal tone. If we cannot see or hear how someone is reacting to what we say, we cannot adjust or restate.
Our future leaders are not learning the skills necessary for complex human communication. By not teaching them, are we sowing the seeds for the dystopian world that is so popular in our current culture? I certainly hope not.