Monday, December 28, 2009

Facebook helps me work around a communication handicap

I have a lot of information stored away in my mind, but retrieval tends to be slow. I'm sort of a Slowlane kind of guy. This can be a handicap in fast talking social situations where it takes me a while to catch on what's being said. Often I think of the best response about 15 minutes after some one's comment, long after the conversation has veered to other topics.

In the world of fast moving sound bytes, I'm lost. Recognizing the lyrics of most songs, I'm lost. Fast moving facial inflections and knowing when to bat the eyes is a total mystery to me.

So Facebook comes to the rescue.

In Facebook, I can see people's comments and think about what to say, or whether to respond at all. The blinking cursor can be very forgiving. If it takes a while to formulate a thought, the cursor just sits and waits patiently. As I'm thinking, the cursor doesn't suddenly find that it's cell phone is ringing and duck out of the conversation.

Yes, Facebook and other Internet vehicles, such as email, are "talking to machines," but it's really talking to people at the other end of the machines. It's slowing down the social interaction enough to give someone like me time to come up with a useful response.

Back in the early 1980s, I remember going to an exhibit at Pacific Science Center in Seattle about computers and the handicap population. TTY for the hearing impaired and so forth. It was crude compared to today's technology, but still quite interesting and potentially liberating for many.

My slight mental handicap has sometimes been described as a form of asperger syndrome. The mind functions, but misses a lot of things in a fast paced environment.

That doesn't mean I don't get out and meet people face to face as well. Many would say "face to face is better than Facebook." Bellingham has a lot of community gathering places near where I live; for instance, conversation at the YMCA sauna is often quite focused and intelligent. A bit slower and more intellectual than, say, fast moving gossip at local bars. Try listening to conversation over blaring techno music.

In many face to face discussions, it can be hard to get a word in edgewise. This can even happen at the Y sometimes especially when one or more real talkative folks tend to dominate. There are ways to work around that problem on Facebook and other on-line environments.

Remember, sometimes talking through the machines helps us organize our interaction with other people.

I feel blessed to have a lot of both on-line and "real world face to face" conversation. The slower, more deliberate talking or writing works better for me.

I don't have a TV, so when I see television in places like motel rooms, it amazes me. Information moves so fast and the world becomes totally fragmented into sound byte segments. This must influence the way a lot of people relate to their friends.

One's stomach can be turning as the TV describes a graphic murder; blood splattered on the wall and then, with snap of the finger it's on to "how's the Seahawks doing?

If I do watch TV, I tend to gravitate toward slower and more focused outlets like the National Geographic Channel, C-span or a local community's public access channel.

No comments: