Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about how people communicate. Since human relationships form the cornerstone of civilization, and human relationships are created and maintained by communication, it’s a pretty mind blowing topic to ponder. More specifically, what’s been interesting me recently has been how each type of communication fits a type of expression.
Being a professional social media marketer has given me a lot of insight into what kind of material is best suited for each social platform. Twitter has a brevity that makes it perfect for timely conversations. Facebook is the go-to place to document life from a slightly more zoomed out perspective. Google+ is where my friends and I waste time sharing Youtube videos in group hangouts. Email is where I carry out nitty gritty, long-form conversations. Each form of communication has a unique flavor, and the best method of communication, from my experience, is to cohesively blend many different social platforms.
Strangely, all the high-tech methods of communication I use on a daily basis has gotten me interested in using older forms of communication. What we gain in instantaneous communication we often lose in personality. The rigid typeface of an email can’t contain the emotive detail of a person’s pen-stroke, or the subtle meaning in a choice of parchment. Like Peggy says in Mad Men: “You can’t frame a phone call.”
So, in addition to all my other tools of communication, I’ve started writing letters again. I have a dear friend who lives in Georgia who is around the same point in her life. Like me, she left the small Indiana town of Bloomington in search of a career and meaning outside of the collegiate world. We’ve both had some issues adapting to the real world, and all the contradictions and hypocrisies that come with it. We thought that we would go against the grain of modern communication, and try writing letters to each other.
At first I was not sure what to put in a letter. The last letter I had written had been in high school, and it was rife with cheesy sentiment and lackluster metaphors. I’ve been keeping up with my writing, but the through composed, pellucid feel of a good letter is very alien to me. Needless to say, it was a struggle to get started, but it’s been worth all the effort. Nothing is more personal or more contemplative than a letter, and the lessons I’ve learned from writing them has given me new insights into all forms of communication.
The most important thing I’ve learned from my foray into letter writing is to keep the focus on the message and the individual receiving it. Take away the computer screen, take away our obsession for retweets and reblogs, and only the message remains. What do we want to say to another person? What do we want to share of our lives? The conduit of sharing is not important, it’s the message that counts. It’s something we inherently think about when we hold a piece of paper in our hand that holds the etchings of another persons thoughts, hopes, and dreams, yet it’s something quickly forgotten when we hide behind a computer screen and begin to lust for followers.
We live at a time of boundless potential, with so many methods to connect to other people that it becomes overwhelming. We need to make sure we never lose the fundamental truth that lies behind all tools of communication: communication exists to bring people together.
It’s the message that matters.
Mr. David Benson is a social media analyst and coffeephile. He currently lives in New York City and works as an analyst for Mashwork, a social media analytics company.