Thursday, 21 February 2013

Lent for Extroverts 8: Communication fragmentation

I often feel poised on the cusp of losing it with technology and slipping into complete Luddite-dom; in fact my kids are convinced this has already happened. They adopt a strained, 'patient' tone with me when trying to explain something technology-related which I cannot appear to grasp, but which they clearly came out of the womb fully cognisant of. 

But I suppose it's all relative. Bits of the Church are completely backward about technology; I think some see the church as refuge from such a thing, forgetting that the fact we have electric lights and microphones would have been at one stage innovative. 

So to some I may seem 'young' and technologically competent: I check my emails on the move; I arrive at school with the assembly on Power point; I download worship tracks and play them in church. But the reality is that I often feel confused and defeated by multiple mobile phone bills and apps which help you 'track' the progress of your son's football team in the local league.

I think it's the overwhelmingly complicated nature of communication nowadays. There was always the phone, but conversations were conducted on the house phone, in the kitchen, which was embarrassing when it was a boyfriend (cue sniggering and 'it's him again' from family members). 

In 2000 I got a big silver mobile 'brick', then a small pink one, then a 'clam shell', then a touch screen; lastly a smart phone.  All that took 12 years, during which time I learnt to text and email and got a laptop. In 2008 I joined Facebook and began to communicate by status updates or 'Messenger'. I started tweeting in May 2012 and now 'read' the papers entirely by tweeted links. I have inadvertently wandered into the background of a Skype call in my daughter's bedroom (I was fully clothed). Recently we were at lunch at someone else's house  when a face literally 'appeared' on a nearby iPad to 'Facetime' us all. Now even texting is fragmenting: my daughter and I 'whatsap' each other if there's no mobile signal; then I go out of WiFi range and have to resert to 'old fashioned' texting.

Today, in a pinnacle, or was it nadir, of communication development, I was reduced to 'chatting' with an 02 on line 'virtual assistant', a surreal experience only marginally less excruciating than asking teenagers to explain stuff to you at home.

You're through to 02 Suzie.

Can you help me...I have 3 bills but I can only remember one password.
Please can you tell me the 3rd and 4th character of your security answer?
d and l.
It's not correct. Your security question is Mother's maiden name.
y and n.
Can you match £46.50 to a phone number? It seems very high.
The bill for this account is £24.10. May I know your other number?
My son's number is 07977653992 and our security answer is toynbee
It's not correct
Can you tell me the 1st and 3rd digit of your sortcode?

(A perfect transcript, apart from the number).

What kind of conversation is that? It made me feel like jumping off a tall building.

All of which is to say life is complicated and prone to fragmentation, and no amount of withdrawing into the wilderness to pray this Lent is going to make it simpler. But it might make me saner.

1 comment:

  1. I had a fruitless 'conversation' with the Tesco mobile virtual assistant this week consisting of 'her' coming up with answers unrelated to my questions which ended
    VA: Is there anything else I can help you with
    me: No you are completely useless
    VA: I don't understand the question. Would you like to rephrase it?