My phone busted over the weekend.
Three things happened as a result: missed calls, mixed messages, and lost connectivity.
My frustrating inability to communicate with the external world using the primary tool used today, the smartphone, got me thinking about (mis)communication in general. Miscommunication causes confusion, misunderstanding, and even distrust. I asked myself,
What does good communication look like?
My answer brought me back to Marshall McLuhan: the medium is the message.
I swapped out my SIM card and inserted it in my previous phone. I thought my old phone would mirror the content on my current phone because of the SIM card. Not true.
I had made plans to meet a friend for coffee so I sent a text message the day of to reconfirm time and place. Turns out, the friend had tried multiple times to call me the day before and explain she couldn’t make it. However, I never received those calls.
✅ Check one for miscommunication: confusion.
Do you have group chats? I lost all of mine when I went back to my old phone.
In addition, I received some texts but not others on my previous device. I asked some friends for information on mobile phone repair services and a friend texted me a screenshot recommendation. I never received it.
✅ Check two: misunderstanding.
I lost connectivity in the past few days. “Connection” has never felt so real before. I used to see connectivity as how many bars I have available . Now I know differently. In a world so “connected” that I saw farmer’s children in the Mexican jungle of Yucatan playing on their phones last summer, I became “disconnected.”
As you likely know from previous editions of Life fully loved, I value connection more than almost anything else. Yet, here I was, disconnected. Talk about an alienating experience.
Even though I knew intellectually that nothing had changed in the past few days from anyone else’s perspective but my own, it reminded me how much the perspective I choose influences how I see events unfold around me.
When I disconnected, I didn’t feel the usual sense of safety that surrounds me.
✅ Check three: distrust.
McLuhan argued the medium – tool – used for communication held more significance than the message itself.
Have you found yourself shortening statements on texts so they’re easier to read? I have. While condensing your thoughts can make you a more direct communicator, it can also worsen communication through the act of simplification. Reducing ideas to their lowest denominator isn’t always the best. It can cue confusion and misunderstanding due to lack of context.
A phone call I received on how to fix my phone shifted my perspective. Listening is my preferred medium. Hearing a voice, understanding tone, that’s how I’m wired. It’s why I prefer listening to podcasts or even YouTube videos as opposed to watching them. By listening, I eliminate the “noise” I get from a visual medium, particularly when body language doesn’t align with tone of voice.
I still don’t completely agree with McLuhan.
While the medium filters how you receive information, I still want to live in a world where the content of those messages reign supreme. When you place content into context, then you facilitate good communication.
He’s right in identifying the content of the medium. If he were alive today, I suspect he’d say “entertainment” is the content of the smartphone just like he argued writing is the content of print.
If the content of the smartphone is entertainment, no wonder we experience confusion, misunderstanding, and distrust in modern communication. It’s the wrong tool!
The tools used in communication greatly impact how the message is received. After getting busted this week, I’ve learned to be more careful in my communication tools. How about you?