We live in the age of rapid communications, no doubt about it. But that word, communications, is a misnomer. What we live in is the age when our current devices, cell phones, and computers, allow us to ignore each other, neglect each other, and monitor each other’s calls. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that now that we have such fine ways of telling each other whatever we want to say, that we might expect rapid responses to our queries, notes, and general conversations. Nothing of the sort.
Instead, the recipient is just as likely to ignore you until it is more convenient to uh… ‘get back’ to you, and that means that he or she will often forget that you got in touch with them in the first place. You, meanwhile, are left in the dark as to whether they a) are too busy to respond (least objectionable), b) have other people in their queue who are more important than you are (more objectionable), c) are mad at you and have no intention of responding to you (most objectionable—at least you deserve to know why they feel the way they do.) Whether these scenarios are what’s going on, the effect is the same: you don’t hear from the person in question.
I’m afraid that it’s a sign of the times. I have long noted that we have lost almost every vestige of public manners, and the cell phone and its properties are just one more way in which simple civility, the acknowledging of another human being (presumably a friend) can be summarily dispensed with. There are plenty of other examples.
We say the Confession of Sin almost every Sunday (not Easter season) in church, and we gloss over that part where we ask forgiveness for things left undone. It’s easy to give lip service to that part of the Confession because we often can’t think of things we have left undone right then. That condition, I submit to you, is getting worse as our times allow us to omit not only ‘things’ left undone, but to omit people, our brothers and sisters for whom we are supposed to be in communion. How easily we can put them on hold, ignore their voice mails, sneer at their texts, and allow their e-mails to be submerged under myriad others.
Then, at some point when we figure that the message has aged beyond usefulness, we feel that we can omit it altogether, congratulating ourselves as having arrived into the new consciousness (or unconsciousness) of the 21st century, and having upheld the highest aims of better communications provided by our cell phones and computers, ably ignoring the people whom we say are our friends.
Shame on us, shame. We create despair and desolation along with our sins of omission. We little think how the other person must feel being ignored and neglected. How much time does it take to answer someone’s text or phone call or e-mail message? Not much, even if the answer is “I’ll get back to you soon.”
I refer to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as I end this rant: “So then, putting away falsehood (in this case pretense at friendship), let us all speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.” (Eph 4:25)