Communicating on the ‘Sly’

Technology has replaced the need for face-to-face conversations. New communication tools and social networks, such as cell phones, text messaging, instant messenger, e-mail, Facebook and MySpace, are making distance communication an instant interaction. Building on this trend, a new service launched by MobileSphere eliminates the need to have a phone conversation.

Slydial is a 10-digit number dialed before placing a call so that a caller is connected straight to voicemail. Unlike text messaging, which eliminates the possibility of conveying emotion and context, Slydial allows callers to seem as though they took the time to place a phone call.

College students are Slydial’s target market because they have to juggle work, college, parents and dating, said Rima Patel, MobileSphere’s marketing and sales manager.

The service also an easy way for people to avoid uncomfortable confrontations or conversations.

“It definitely helps when you’re faced with an awkward situation,” Patel said. “If you’re in conflict with somebody, you can go directly to their voicemail to explain your situation and explain your point of view. They have all your information first so basically you get your point across to that person before they make the decision to call you back.”

But that isn’t how everyday communication is conducted. People who are angry with each other need to learn to respond to each other in real time without the luxury of getting their point across uninterrupted. Though Slydial’s providers don’t feel they are doing a disservice, it is still encouraging young people to bypass awkward conversations.

It is important that young people learn to interact effectively and understand that awkward conversations are a part of life that we all need to deal with. Avoiding these types of conversations could leave young people ill-equipped to communicate effectively in the real world.

Instant communications and virtual interactions create new ways of socializing. Michael LeVan, a communication instructor, said new technology allows communication and language to evolve. New communication methods encourage people to interact with each other more frequently. These digitized methods allow us more control over what we view and when we view it.

LeVan said new technologies “allow us to interact without constraints of space of time.”

In some instances, this could be a good thing.

Rick Wilber, a mass communication professor, said people of all ages communicate a great deal more than they used to, and this is often a good thing.

It is important that technological innovations are improving our communication and social skills. However, though college campuses typically breed a more social environment, Wilber said some new social developments associated with technology can be “reclusive” and isolating.

“This can certainly lead to an erosion of social skills,” Wilber said.

These new technologies make communicating more convenient but may affect our communication abilities. For example, AT&T runs a popular ad that portrays a mom, grandmother and kids talking in abbreviations. “Text talk,” such as “lol” and “omg,” has been accepted into our society as a new form of slang, and it’s changing the way lanauage is used. Students who are frequent texters might fall victim to grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes in their writing as well.

“I spend a lot of time in class clarifying the difference betweeninformal and more formal writing,” Wilber said.

Technology is always evolving and has allowed people to communicate more efficiently. As these examples reveal, however, it can also cause people’s social skills to devolve.