February 6, 2010 7:07:00 PM
We are united by jillions of connections, visible and invisible. You can call it a network, or the World Wide Web, or links. But, no matter, we are tangled in a labyrinth that no one really understands.
With cell phones and email and instant messaging, we can communicate with almost any part of the globe in seconds. But, somehow we are just not understanding each other.
Once upon a time, there was an etiquette to communications. We never phoned anyone after 9 p.m. and were expected to make polite conversation with the person who answered the phone before asking to speak to the one we really called. A long-distance call was a very big deal. It was seldom good news.
E-mail has made the rules a bit fuzzy. My mother would become very annoyed when I didn''t acknowledge every cartoon or photo of cute kitties she sent to my inbox. My very high-tech sister explained that e-mail was like someone talking to you from another room, did not require a Miss Manners-type of response. They never agreed; hence, this was one area where the generation gap was a mile wide.
Answering machines were amazing and wonderful about 20 years ago. Because of them I do not answer the phone today. However, my friend, Deborah Johnson, refuses to leave a message on a machine. So, she calls and hangs up. I never know if I should call back or if she dialed my number by mistake. When there are no rules, we make them up. This gives everyone a chance to have hurt feelings.
Bob Raymond calls my cell phone (which I never use) and sometimes leaves rude noises as a message. This makes me laugh ... and wonder why I still love him.
Although I do not advocate a return to smoke signals or jungle drums, I don''t believe this sort of super-speed transmission has made life any easier. No one is ever "off." The Internet means we can work at home with remote connections, and cell phones mean we will never miss a call. I long for the time when no one from the office ever called after 5 p.m., unless maybe the office was on fire. When do we get to relax?
I sometimes get in trouble for things I have written. Inevitably, my words were totally misinterpreted. I have a rule; it is that I only poke fun at characters on the national stage, such as Brittany Spears or Paris Hilton. I never say anything mean about locals. Still, I have offended some sensitive souls. Mea culpa.
In some ways technology just gives us a quicker way to insult or upset, even if the intentions were kind.
Here are a few polite, inoffensive messages from me:
I do not want to close down any lines of communication. My goal is to try to make things a bit clearer. Perhaps we should return to real, in-person visits, and use the maze of webs and nets a little less. After all, some knots can be impossible to unravel, especially when delicate feelings are at stake.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.