Monday, August 24, 2009

Society's Silence

I read this WSJ article on our society's lost art of communication this morning and it got me thinking about how much I let modern technology influence my emotions.

The answer: Way to freaking much.

I realize what has got my underwear all in a bundle lately is, at once, a need for quick communication and a depressing disgust with it.

Let me explain. As a journalist, I propose articles. Articles are either favorably received, and I get a job, or they're not, and I either reformulate, send to a different publication, or scrap the idea and start anew.

This all requires 2-way communication.

I never get upset when an idea is rejected. In fact, if it's rejected with any inkling of a reason why, I'm quite grateful for the info--it could help me write a better proposal the next time around.

I get really upset when I receive NOTHING.

And here's the double-edged sword: I rely on quick communication to keep my work flowing. But this type of communication has made it easy--and even acceptable--for people to completely ignore each other.

I hate that. When my proposals are rejected, somebody has acknowledged my existence. I am thankful at least for that. When absolutely nothing comes for weeks on end, I cry for humanity. And for myself.

If society still favored "slow" methods of communication--a phone call, for instance--I doubt many editors, who I am sure are usually totally decent people, would give a caller the silent treatment. Rejection? Sure. But not a total lack of acknowledgment of the caller's efforts at communication.

Should I ever be in a position where people are proposing ideas to me, I vow to send a response to every one of them. Even if it only says: Thanks, but no.

Should someone put effort into a proposal, and put themselves out there for an editor's scrutiny, the least the writer deserves is some acknowledgment of their existence. Not only does it make the writer happy, it gives a more favorable impression of the publication's ethical standards, and reputation as a publication worth pursuing.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Erin,

    read the blog- I generally agree with you, though I'd like to offer one corollary.

    I think the immediacy of modern communication has led to psychological consequences that make us more sensitive to being ignored, as much as it makes us easier to ignore.

    In todays world in any one message, there is a sender, and any number of recipients.

    From the Sender's point of view (or Journalist's, in our case), all things happen in an instant. We hit enter and we post, tweet, broadcast, update and otherwise transmit whatever was on our plate to anyone who we designate (or in some cases, anyone who has self-selected to listen).

    This is info at Concorde speed, and its easy to perceive the entire world moving too slowly from this vantage point.

    From the recipient's end (the editor, or anyone for that matter), this speed of transmission means that it is easy for us to be targeted with any number of messages, with increasing frequency.

    As an info consumer, we can self-select to receive any number of little transmissions, every second, all day.

    This leads to info overload, especially for gatekeepers like editors whose job it is to sift through everything and pull out the best nuggets.

    So to recap, this brave new informaton age we work in has led to
    1. Information producers (us) feeling ever more entitled to instantaneous responses.
    2. receivers being bombarded by ever increasing masses of data, leading to slower response times.

    So what do we do?

    Well, my solution as a producer is to include in my contact with editors a little, "I'll give you a call if I don't hear from you by X". Its an old trick, but it seems to work.

    When I'm on the other end, I always respond to the e-mail by saying that its been recieved and that I'll be getting back to the sender shortly— just so they know I'm listening.

    Thats just common courtesy- maybe THAT is what its easier to ignore these days.