Where Has Personal Communication Gone?

For a lot of people, technology has taken over. We can email, instant message, and text people, and often in an abbreviated form that not everyone will understand (R U N the know?) in a few movements.

The social impact of non-personal communication is huge. According to CTIA-The Wireless Association, over 1.5 trillion text messages were sent in 2009. In fact, in the last half of 2009, over 822 billion messages were sent and received which averages out to nearly 5 billion messages each day.

Rarely do people write letters longhand anymore. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling have always been a concern, but are even more so now that people don’t write. Many times people don’t pick up the phone and call anymore or meet face to face. Voice inflection, facial expressions, and body gestures are lost as a form of communication. Reading words without knowing the feelings behind them means that emotions are being disregarded.

Even though we may be more in contact through these messages, we are drifting apart. It is easier to lie or exaggerate or be dishonest because you aren’t standing right in front of the other person.

There is less intellectual exchange of opinions, thoughts, and ideas, and when they are exchanged, they are not in-depth or well thought out.

Educators are finding the abbreviated language showing up in papers and on test answers. The social interaction between students is also changing, and schools have to be more concerned about electronic bullying and stalking, which they won’t know about unless the victim speaks out.

Employers are finding that the younger employees don’t have marketable skills, such as proper grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and spelling. They also don’t know how to relate to co-workers and customers on a person-to-person basis. This can lead to lost profits, which no business wants.

So who is responsible for seeing that communication in our society doesn’t deteriorate?

When it comes right down to it, we all are. Parents should have rules around texting, have their children and themselves write letters longhand, use the telephone to talk to friends, and have social outings where they are forced to visit face to face. Teachers need to reinforce proper English by having students read books and write papers where the research isn’t all done online. Employers can hold training sessions, use more formal business writing, and have meetings where employees interact. They can also monitor the messages being sent to make sure they are business related, and to make sure that they are a proper representation of the company’s values.

Electronic communication is instant, can be done at any time of the day, and can be dangerous if messages are sent without much thought. Be careful what you say because you never know who will read it. If you send a message that is meant only for one person, it could intentionally or inadvertently be read by a lot of others. Messages are often sent in a hurry or on the fly, so what you write may not be what you intended to say.

Sending messages electronically is a convenience, but it shouldn’t take the place of personal interaction. Take the time to reach out in person and encourage others to do the same.

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Davy Kestens is a motivated young lunatic from Belgium with a highly entrepreneurial vision on his life. Currently working as a freelance creative director and continuously starting up online projects when he’s not out trying to take over the world. His latest published tool for world domination is GhostBloggers.net – An online marketplace where you can buy & sell unique blog posts. Want to keep up with him? Go ahead and visit his website.

Leave a Reply


  1. Excellent article. You’re expressing what a lot of people are thinking and feeling, but is there much hard evidence to support this viewpoint?

  2. Hey Davy,

    This is a great post and raises an interesting discussion on the nature of communication.

    [Spoiler alert]: I disagree with almost everything you say!

    Firstly, I need to challenge the idea that digital communication is necessarily ‘non-personal’. Certainly it is a very different form of communication – it tends to be shorter in duration / higher in frequency – but we cannot mistake variance for anti-thesis. It’s perfectly possible to send a very personal text, for example. Go on, check your own phone now – I’m sure you’ll find plenty in there that is very personal indeed.

    Secondly, I contend that we are not ‘drifting apart’ but, in fact, coming closer together. Geographical and temporal distance has been closed by sites like Facebook, Twitter and earlier, Friends Reunited. These technologies have enabled us to maintain, rediscover and reinvigorate contact with people we had previously really drifted away from. Without the social web, we were constantly forced to choose between friendships and logistics, internally running ROI on whether it was worth maintaining this or that relationship. It is a calculation we now no longer need to make, and this is a very good thing indeed.

    Thirdly, communication changes – it needs to, if it is to be vigorous and alive. Mourning long form letters? I assume you must be joking. Sure, they were a delight to write, and read, (I’m old enough to have actually done both) and absolutely we are losing the ‘art’ of writing such letters, but this is pure sentimentality to mourn its loss, not sober analysis of what we have gained in its stead. I’d certainly trade a free Skype video call with my girlfriend for any number of letters she might write to me.

    In the end, we need to be less alarmist about the changes in which we are communicating. It can sometimes take us out of our comfort zone, and it’s sad when we see things that we treasure lose it’s resonance and relevance with the youth of today. However, our tasks to be keep pace with the young, be more like them, not force them to more like us. They won’t like it, and in any case, it wouldn’t work.

    Thanks for writing.

    Best wishes


    PS: You ARE right about online bullying; I propose the elimination of online anonymity on any comment or messaging site as a way forward. You got something to say, man up and put your name to it

  3. Hi Hung Lee
    I must say, I’m damn well impressed by the quality of your reply! You raise some pretty decent points there, and I must admit that I also agree with parts of your message.
    I also respect you for discussing about this in a friendly tone, which is also something that frequently gets lost in today’s online culture 🙂
    Kind regards

  4. I think it’s because I am not anonymous online. Pretty certain I’d be vicious and incoherent if I was ‘AlphaDog29’…..

  5. AlphaDog29

    DAMN YOU ALL! You’re both wrong!


  6. Great article Davy! I agree on some of the points you and Hung have. Conversation like this could really help people like me understand what the message is all about.

    Thanks for sharing this to everyone!


  7. Completely agree. In this blackberry, iPad, instant message world, folks are losing their socialization skills. In my line of work, I can see that even email is becoming “dinosaur” and since folk are used to quickie texts, they’re not taking proper time to read an email, understand points, details and make accurate decisions. Phoning them only half works, because most of the time, they are rushing off the phone (I guess so they can hurry and send their next text message). A good timely reminder…thank you.