Online messaging apps have become second nature to us. The day that Whatsapp fell, it seemed as though our lives were quite literally put on pause. We are increasingly dependent on our phones for communication, and we are constantly being bombarded with their new updates and features. From voice notes to the ability to speed up voice notes, we exploit the communication tools that are handed to us through these apps.
Recently, Whatsapp added a reaction feature to messaging, where one can “like” or “react to” someone’s text with emojis. This has allowed for faster and more efficient communication, whereby you do not need to use your words to tell someone you understand. It has also given us the ability to end a conversation in a less awkward way. When you do not know how to respond to a message or finish an interaction, you give the message a quick like and move on with your day. It is rapid and efficient, everyone understands the intention, and you do not have to be the last to text (that way you are not the one “left on read.” Thank God!).
With this rise of social media and messaging apps, we have looked for increasingly efficient ways to communicate with one another. From acronyms to photo replies, apps are constantly feeding us features to make communication faster and lower effort. It seems as though our communication is more efficient with every iOS update. Conversation is becoming something that we just want to get over with, a vector through which we gather what we need to understand and move on. However, as our communication becomes faster and shorter, our relationships do, too.
Communicating with another person is the most important aspect of a relationship. You cannot possibly know another person without knowing what they like, what they do not, their values, and their tendencies. None of those, not one, can be expressed accurately through text, let alone an emoji-reaction to a text. By making communication faster and easier, we remove the aspects of talking to one another that nurture our relationships, from seeing someone smile to going off on tangents about one another’s lives.
Conversation is messy, it is long, it can go off course, and it can be annoying. What we do not realize, though, is that there is beauty in the chaos of it. It is human to stumble on words and to forget what you were going to say mid-thought. You learn a lot more about another person through the inefficient, time-consuming derailing of a conversation than through most other forms of interaction that we have. Being able to speed up voice messages and send GIFs has eliminated that part of life – the part where you get to know others as people, rather than as screens.
Sure, sometimes you do want to give someone a quick reminder, or simply get a piece of information as soon as possible. Some communication has to be efficient, but if that is the case, where do we draw the line? There is nothing stopping us from putting every conversation we have into the “needs to be efficient” box, and slowly losing our social skills entirely. With the option to talk about something quickly, there is no longer a point in going out of our way to find out that information – and we sacrifice the opportunity for real human interaction for efficiency.
This is not necessarily unique to WhatsApp or social media – we do it every day through technology. We prefer sending an email to going to someone’s office or checking our bank account online rather than in person. Sometimes these things really are necessary, but slowly, every single human interaction we have is being replaced by a technological counterpart. It is replaced by a faster, easier way to get the exact same outcome and the journey of getting there is being forgotten in the process.
Communication was never meant to be efficient, it was meant to be human. It was also never meant to be easy. In fact, having difficult conversations is among the hardest and most uncomfortable things we will ever face in life. It seems as though it would be better to avoid communication entirely, but these real, raw, difficult interactions allow us to grow. We cannot learn more about ourselves, cultivate wholesome relationships, and live fulfilled lives if we prioritize efficiency over humanity. And we definitely cannot do those things through a liked message.
Featured image: Charity Digital