Has being connected turned us into poor communicators?

Someone told me recently that it was 20 years ago since we first started texting. (It would seem that all great things in communications started in 1999.)

Texting changed my world. While they were initially expensive to send and painfully slow to type, we suddenly had a communication tool that was quick but not overly demanding. It took the pressure off having to speak with someone – fantastic for the introverts out there – and you were forgiven for poor grammar, spelling and punctuation.

The options for communications were simple and I would hypothesise that no one would have predicted how much this would change in 20 years.

Now in a day, I receive messages by email and text of course. But I’m also constantly being messaged via Facebook, LinkedIn, Whatsapp and Instagram. I’m not a Snapchatter, but I have enough teenagers in my life to know how relentless this platform is. I’m now constantly connected and what’s more none of the conversations take me long to complete which is great as I run a pretty hectic life.

But then there’s the conundrum of content. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has content coming out of my ears. My inbox is inundated with must-reads. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Flipboard and LinkedIn offer me dozens of stories that will ‘change my life’. And if I don’t want to read anything, I can watch videos, hundreds of them across all these platforms or listen to podcasts, which is my latest fad. But they come in faster than I can walk the dog in the evening.

It’s almost impossible to get through a day without being almost overwhelmed with content that will make me a smarter, healthier and a more informed person.

But I’m worried. As a society, can we afford to be bombarded by all this information at our fingertips? Do we have the ability to read anything that is longer than 350 words (which, if you’ve read this far, you’ve made it!)

I get to the end of the day and find that reading a novel takes extreme concentration and stillness of mind. It’s getting harder to do this. Spending time to craft the perfect letter has been superseded by a smiley face or thumbs up emoji. We no longer choose to have a conversation with someone when we can tap out a quick message.

Are we better communicators with all these channels or are the messages being diluted by the magnitude of options?

And if our next generation of communicators are only spending seconds reading before moving onto the next thing, how can we expect them to understand the craft of writing well-constructed and meaningful communication?

The last 20 years of change in the way we communicate might help us stay connected but is it destroying our ability to structure a story, clearly articulate a message and read something longer than a blog article or the captions on a video?


Kellie Hasluck

Kellie has provided Western Australian businesses with communications advice for nearly 20 years as a co-founder of Clarity. She provides coaching and mentoring services to executives in the resources, engineering and financial services and not for profit sectors. Kellie is an experienced public relations practitioner undertaking strategic planning, community consultation, media relations, and internal communications for large national and international organisations.