Connecting via voice

/ 20 February 2013

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how intimacy is constructed, about how embodiment is experienced, particularly in online environments. Partly that musing has come from being involved in an online class this semester, but part of it has also come from listening to numerous adults complaining about how rarely their teens will talk on the phone with them, but how often and happily those same teens will text.

The adults do not find texting a useful substitute for voice calls, but the teens tell me that the texting feels more appropriate to them, more natural, more connected, even more intimate in some ways.

I once heard a scholar refer to texting as operating in the “nearly now.” That is, texting holds a moment’s pause, the ability not to respond at once the way you feel you must when you are in a conversation with someone via voice. If you don’t respond at once on the phone, the other person will worry that you are cut off, or angry, or hurt, will attribute some emotion to the silence. While in texting the convention seems to be that a pause in the conversation — even a very long pause — does not HAVE to mean something in particular.

So is the fact that teens prefer texting signifying something about preferring less inference, less judgment? Or is it that they feel more empowered by this technology, more comfortable with it than do adults?

And then I began to wonder about prayer.

Prayer is something that many people — particularly younger people — do not find very comfortable, natural, or organic.

Prayer is often voiced, but does not assume an immediate response. Indeed, some prayer has no response at all.

I don’t have conclusions to any of this, just ponderings on this very cold Wednesday afternoon…