Tuesday, 4 October 2016

We Don't Talk Any More.

Voice automated services and I don't get along.

The system fails to detect my diction and in frustration, my accent becomes stronger which means we just keep going in circles until one of us - usually me - gives up. If my husband is home I end up ramming the phone into his hand with instructions to tell 'them' my name and National Insurance number when prompted because I've already tried several times without success.

How hard does it have to be before we're allowed to speak to another human being? Not just on the phone but face to face. If you're lucky enough to still have a high street branch of your bank, which to some extent we are, being able to pop in and speak to a clerk is also getting to be something of a challenge. I don't mind waiting in the queue.despite there being only one or two clerks dealing with customers. I do mind waiting however whilst another member of staff patrols the line asking individuals what their business is with the bank today and how can they be of help...? Well, first of all, I'm not willing to discuss my business with you and the rest of the queue as it's private and no, I have no desire to use the machine in the wall to deposit money regardless of how efficient a service you assure me this is. And if it's all the same, I would prefer to interact with a real person in a natural and sociable way. I'm not here to offer a life story or distract from the job or hold up the line for longer than it takes to complete the transaction I came here to do so how about knocking the patrol on the head and planting your backside in that seat and getting on with it? For some reason, this simple solution doesn't appear to fit in with the latest research concerning efficiency in the workplace or whatever convoluted label some faceless company has been paid extortionate amounts for identifying today's trend for saving time and money.

Our youngest has just started secondary school and the only way to contact a teacher is to email them. I get it to an extent. They have a job to do which can't get done if parents are constantly needing five minutes of their time. But it feels like yet another road block in the communication stakes. And the homework is now all online even the 'to do list'. Again, yes it's efficient but it's also very stressful for a child to log on (when you can remember the lengthy pin numbers and passwords that come with,) and see an endless list of tasks which suggest power-points and tables they haven't even been taught how to use yet. Stressful for them and stressful for the parents trying to help them. Planned meetings with tutors are limited to five minutes per student. We are already teaching our children to be slaves of technology and of time yet the news is full of reports suggesting that children don't know how to cope with the basics of life anymore like cooking or crossing the road safely because they're glued to the latest connection for social networking. Text-talk has already replaced the art of conversation.

Human Encounter. Do you remember what one of these looks like or are we too busy sticking plugs in our ears and staring at screens to comprehend the world beyond technology? Are we seriously becoming a society who can only function via computers and automated-time-saving-services? And if so, who are we saving this precious time for? Certainly not for the family. Family time has been hacked to death in our 24/7 want-it-now-or-I'll-go-elsewhere-self-imposed-culture of instant gratification. A perpetual cycle of supply and demand, a merry-go-round that can only get faster until your head spins and you're screaming to be thrown off. Let's hope there's a grass verge when you land but I'm guessing there probably won't be.

We are deceiving and cheating ourselves in the name of progress and we're not even aware of how much. Dating Sites. Profiles. Perfect Matches. For the very people who spend their days saving time but have no time to find someone to share that time with. Missing out on those glorious moments of serendipity, those chance encounters that come from opening yourself up and engaging with the world, by taking a wrong turn, or getting on the wrong bus or hey! missing the bus altogether. The agony of waiting for that special call, the heartache when it doesn't come and sometimes having to think on your feet and make an excuse when it does. The joy of the ride for the hell of it.

You can stare at a profile until you're blue in the face, take selfies instead of stopping a passer-by to take the picture for you, you can tick boxes to your heart's content and complete the transaction in record time - and very well done if you do. But it will never replace the fundamental skill of communicating meaningfully with another person. Not just with words but with body language, facial expressions or simply with what cannot be said or articulated in the moment - the gaps between the words, those slivers of silence that have the power to blow us away.