Is Technology Killing Interpersonal Communication Skill?

I started reading Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman, a professor and communication expert on identifying how technology changes how we communicate. Postman wrote most of his works in the late 80s and early 90s however as I am reading his views now, it as if he wrote the book yesterday.

Though Postman is accused of being a technophobe, one who fears technology, he really isn’t. He is the other voice to the technology enthusiasts. He points out one problem with technology is that while we herald it for the ways it will make our lives “better” we never stop to consider what problems it might cause. 

For instance, texting is a great convenience and a popular medium. But do you think the “inventor” of texting ever imagined that people  would lose their lives because they are texting and driving? No. 

It is nearly impossible to predict what technology will be a worldwide success and what will be a flop,( i.e. Facebook versus 8 track tapes), let alone predict the problems that will spring from us using technology. Along with texting came a new “vocabulary”.

“c u l8r” 

We had to learn the language of texting if not for personal use then for interpretation. I have a friend who NEVER uses short hand in texts or emails. He writes out every word and uses proper capitalization, grammar, and punctuation ALL the time. Good for him. But he still needed to learn how to decipher my abbreviation in order to decipher my meanings and messages.

So what does this have to do with communication?

With new communication technology comes new attitudes about what is and isn't acceptable ways to communicate.

Texting is extremely casual and extremely “sender-centric”. Traditional handles like “Mr.”or “Ms.” are hardly ever used. Salutations have been reduced to “hey” or “hi” if there is a salutation at all. 

All of this “casual-ness” behavior texting promotes can become problematic when you go offline. Suddenly, you think you are “closer” to the receiver than you may actually be in real life. So that off handed remark you meant as a joke is interpreted as inappropriate because in the real world you violated a social formality that does not exist in texting. 
I can not tell you the number of conflict resolution situations I have helped remedy that were  instigated through a medium like email, text, or social media. 
This is Postman’s point: that the technology has its benefits but it also brings communicative problems we need to look for.  

We now need to be well skilled in when and how to take conversations offline. What conversations shouldn’t be online in the first place. What to do when the online conversations are misinterpreted.  How to fix it and how to avoid going there again. 

Aren’t you glad you have BRAVE Communication here to give you that knowledge?!

I am curious to hear what you  think. 

Do you think technology has improved your interpersonal communication skill?

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc


  1. Texting is a big problem although very useful too. I have found it to be a problem in different circumstances. My mom and I just resolved lots of issues we had that resulted thru texting. My daughter and her boyfriend "text" fight. It's terrible. And the worst is people driving. It's a scary thing. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Deb,

    A lot of people text fight. They think it is less "intense" somehow, but it isn't. Thanks for commenting Deb.