Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Communication in the Modern World

James Peabody-Harrington
iExamen 1

Communication in the Modern World
       I learned several things about social interaction during my reflections for the iExamen. While practicing self-observation of my communicative skills I noticed how people rarely make eye contact. As I observed communication through social networking such as Facebook or Twitter, I realized how difficult it is to use sarcasm over the internet. During my hour without technology I felt disconnected from the social world yet closer and more observant to my natural surroundings. The iExamen exercise opened me up to a better understanding of human behavior and the lack of communication in modern society.
       Walking across campus, or through the halls, or even while talking to a friend or acquaintance I realized how rare direct eye contact is. I was walking over the bridge on my way to Boulder and I noticed if I looked up at someone then they would usually look away quickly. It was almost as if people were afraid to look me in the eye. I was not glaring or making strange faces at people but just looking them in the eye once I got close and it would startle them and they would quickly glance at the ground or off to the side. On Monday in my Calculus class some one was called on to answer a question and they did not look up at the professor or down at their paper but off to the side when the answered the question while flashing their eyes on and off the professor but acting as if they could not hold eye contact for more then a second or two. Even while talking with my roommate later that day, I noticed that we would not really look into each others eyes when we were talking. It was strange and I tried to focus on the person I was talking to when I spoke to them and it seemed to almost make the conversation more personal. It was as if when we look at each other we could talk on a more meaningful level because that would be what the focus was on, each other. The iExamen has prompted me to try and make eye contact more often while I speak with people because it really makes for a more meaningful and fulfilling interaction.
       Social networking sites have a huge impact on society in the current day and age, but it is still difficult to communicate sarcasm. Facebook and Twitter are both major ways of staying connected with old friends and distant relatives or even just checking up with a friend down the street. However, what I began to notice as I surfed the web on social media is how sarcasm creates confusion online. Sense the tone of voice and facial expression, two things very important in communication, can not be displayed online there is often misunderstanding when sarcasm is used. Confusion like this can create anger if a joke is taken literally or it can make a serious situation out to be no big deal. People need to be straight forward when communicating across text or social media to prevent confusion.
       Being unplugged from technology for one hour created a sense of disconnection and discomfort, yet at the same time it felt liberating to be free to observe natural features overlooked by technology. I did not really know what to expect coming into this exercise because I never thought of myself as being very connected to my phone, computer, or other technologies. However, I realized that I very much am. Since I have been at college I have been doing a lot of talking and texting with my parents, brother, sister, and friends from back home. During the hour I was anxious to be able to check my phone to see if I received messages from any of those people. I wanted to flick on the television and watch the football game Sunday or get on my laptop and check Twitter or throw in some headphones and listen to Blake Shelton. For the first few minutes I felt really bored as if I was going to miss something important. However, as I sat there on my bed I turned over and opened up the window. I live on the 8th floor of Campion and I was instantly surprised by the sound of the street bellow and how loud and detailed the noise was. I could hear some birds chirping and the wind whistling. I watched the cars go by and some people walking or jogging on the sidewalk. I am almost embarrassed to say it but I ended up people watching. I saw an older man walking with a cane down the sidewalk. I noticed a few birds fly by and off into the trees. Then as I felt the cool air blow in through my window it smelled like fall and it reminded me of home in Maine. The sounds and smells took me back home to the woods and I could picture the foliage on the trees and the crisp air in my head. The nature connected me to back home just like technology connected me to my family and friends back home. After I got past the original discomfort the hour without technology was very fulfilling and meaningful and I think I might actually try to make it a regular thing.
       The iExamen opened my eyes to several behaviors of communication in modern society. The lack of eye contact between people is startling because eye contact creates such meaningful interactions. The use of sarcasm over social media is often misconstrued and confusing. The removal of technology and acceptance of nature can create emotions that I thought only technology would bring. I am going to use what I learned in the iExamen to better communicate with those around me and across social media.  

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