This past week I listened to Pulpit Fiction’s recent interview with Rachel Held Evans, which you can listen to here. (Pulpit Fiction is a lectionary resource that I highly recommend.) As soon as she started talking I thought, “She doesn’t sound like I expected!” It actually threw me for a second, thinking I might have clicked the wrong link.
It’s weird that hearing Rachel’s voice throws me, because she has a Southern accent that I’ve heard all my life. It’s not really about Rachel though; the problem lies somewhere else. I read Rachel’s blog on a regular basis, and like anything else I read on the Internet, I read it in my head. Which means I hear her words with my own voice. Do that enough times and you begin to forget there’s someone else on the other end of the screen. After a while, the words on the screen become all you associate with that person.
Social media is not much better. Although Facebook and Twitter have your name and picture attached to your posts, it’s still easy to forget the person on the other end. You lose the benefit of inflection, tone, expression, and all other important non-verbal communications. Smilies and emojis just don’t cut it.
Of course, talking in person isn’t perfect. There’s lots of ways of disengage or not engage in every conversation. Sometimes we sit without listening, only waiting for our turn to speak. But at least I can’t forget you’re a real person when you’re sitting in front of me.
Here’s my dilemma. Having recognized a problem, I have no idea how to address it. I don’t know how to be better at seeing, or at least remembering, the person on the other end of the screen. The prevalence of social media means this isn’t going away any time soon, so I could use some help. After my blanket apology to Rachel and all other people on the Internet, “I’m sorry I forgot you were real people,” what’s next?
I hope you have an idea. How do you avoid my mistake? How do you remember the person on the other side of the screen?