Remember as you read this post that most of communication is nonverbal. Livestrong.com explains why nonverbal communication is important. Briefly, “If you rely solely on spoken words (or texting and/or e-mails) to unearth the intent and meaning of communication with your significant other, you are likely to come up short nearly every time.”
In addition, Good Therapy.org reported on a study conducted at UCLA. “Nonverbal communication plays a significant role in our lives, as it can improve a person’s ability to relate, engage, and establish meaningful interactions in everyday life.”
That brings me to someone I met recently who I talked to for less than 2 hours. Over the next week that talk triggered fond memories long lost in the archival memory of my mind.
I remembered that as a child I played a lot of Scrabble, Monopoly, card games and other board games with real-live humans. We sat around kitchen tables, on living room floors, and even on the green grass in the front yard.
When I reached high school, I graduated to board games that focused on war, and I spent hours with my friends playing Avalon Hill games reenacting D-Day, the American Civil War, Gettysburg, and Midway.
Right out of high school, I joined the Marines, fought in Vietnam, got married, went to college, and ended up working 60-to-100 hour weeks for decades. That didn’t leave time for the games of my youth until the early 21st century when my stepdaughter was in grade school. I taught her how to play a few card games, Monopoly, chess and Scrabble, but that only lasted a few years for only a few games. There just wasn’t enough time, because the internet and high tech had arrived.
I remembered one Monopoly game with my stepdaughter where I went to jail seven times in a row. Every time I got out of jail, I landed on that square that sent me right back to jail. While I was in Monopoly jail, she bought up almost all the property and after I finally got out of jail I paid her a lot of rent before I went bankrupt and lost the game. There was a lot of groaning and laughter during that game.
Then stepdaughter reached middle school, discovered boys, and lost interested in the board/card games. In high school she added scholastic clubs and sports, and was often gone from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. When home, she was in her room most of the time doing school work. When she went to Stanford that was the end of any chance of playing board/card games with anyone. Now she’s married and working her own 60+ hours a week more than 75 miles from where I live, and her lifestyle doesn’t include board games. She calls maybe twice a month for a few minutes each time. She texts. I don’t. I even got rid of my so-called smart phone and took a step back to an old dumb flip phone.
After I left teaching after 30 years, I attempted to play video games and internet chess but that didn’t stick. It wasn’t the same. Something was missing. Even if there was another person playing on the other end of the cable or satellite connection somewhere in the world, I was still alone staring at a computer monitor. It wasn’t the same as sitting on the floor or around a table playing with real people where we talked and laughed and had a good time.
Back in the early 1980s, I picked up a great habit. I started listening to audio books while I was driving. That started with tape cassettes I checked out of the library and played on the long drive to work and back home. The cassette player was eventually replaced with a CD player that was a step up, because cassette tapes sometimes jammed and/or unspooled.
This year, I turned in a car I’d owned for almost a decade and leased a 2016 Toyota RAV4 with no CD player. I was told that CD players were old technology, and I could convert my CD’s and load them on a USB thumb drive and play my audio books while I drove. That turned out to be a dangerous distraction that didn’t always work well. I spent weeks and hundreds of dollars trying different tech options from a portable battery powered CD player, a Sony Walkman, and a wireless tablet computer. They all turned out to be more complicated than the simple CD player in a car’s dash in addition to being a dangerous distraction when I had to take my eyes off the road to use the fancy touch screen to keep the audio book playing. To avoid an accident, that meant I had to drive for miles with no story or pull over to the side of the road or into a lot where I parked to safely navigate that cursed high-tech screen to get the audio book playing again.
Eventually I just gave up and stopped listening to anything. I refuse to pay XM satellite radio for programs I’m not interested in. I want my audio books back and CD players were easier to use than all the other high tech crap replacing that old tech. And forget old fashioned radio. I’m spoiled. Audio books don’t come with static, advertisements, listening to NPR begging for donations, or far-right, conservative hate-radio talk shows spewing racism and lies.
Before the Internet and all this so-called wonderful high tech came along, I always found time to read a book during the day because there weren’t so many time sucking distractions. I even found time to play a card or board game. When I was still teaching, I hosted a chess club at lunch in my classroom, and it was amazing how the room filled up with children who wanted to sit across a board from another real, live human being who came with non-verbal communication.
What are we giving up for this high tech, internet, virtual world where too many people often find themselves sitting alone in a room interacting with a computer screen and/or someone we probably will never meet? In fact, many of the alleged people we meet on-line often use fake and/or anonymous names and hide who they really are, and without nonverbal language we’ve lost more than half of what it means to communicate with each other face to face.
I will admit that using a word processor to write is a lot easier than using a typewriter or pen or pencil. And during this journey into the world of new tech replacing old, I learned to hate Toyota.
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).
Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal.
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