Can we talk?

LET us be frank, when you see someone using a phone that looks like it was resurrected from the grave, don't we get a little offended and a tad critical? I am referring to those phones that have buttons and key pads that scream rudely for attention. You must have also come across people who deliberately choose to live gadget-free, blissful in their own company.

For such people, talking means having a conversation with eye contact and the gestures in place and communicating means conveying with emotions. Inviting someone for a dinner or lunch would mean picking up the phone to speak with the glorious energy that infiltrates the air through the voice.

Catching up with someone would mean asking the person out and in the process make connections and create lasting impressions which will stay as sweet memories. If there is a need to know how to spell and pronounce a difficult word like "deleterious", just look it up in the dictionary and learn a new word or two and while doing so also learn that the difficult word could be replaced with the word "harmful".

With digitalisation, the beauty of meeting, talking, speaking and chatting in the real sense have become obsolete. Lament is exactly what I am doing and as I do so, I have just had a nice cup of coffee with a colleague and the nicer bit is not the coffee but the exchange of energy between two highly charged individuals.

I am not exactly disheartened that the Digital News Report 2017 found that Malaysians are the world's largest users of WhatsApp at 51%. The positive flip side to this shows that we are progressing.

The report also found that Facebook and YouTube are also popular with Malaysians, with 58% and 26% of users respectively, and WeChat and Instagram, with 13%.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak noting these, said that the report also mentioned Malaysians as getting 86% of their news feed from social media, 45% from publications, 54% from television and 15% from radio.

According to him, a study made by another organisation, TNS Global similarly found Malaysians as being the largest group of WhatsApp users, at 77%, and Facebook Messenger, at 41%.

According to him, WhatsApp was the main choice for consumers because of its many advantages such as simplicity and speed in communication and information sharing, and effective interfaces within an organisation as every instruction or alert could be sent without time restriction, and saved cost.

We have been howling on this topic many times over in various platforms but the truth is this isn't going away. As I am writing my attention trails off in the direction of the beep that comes from my phone. I am connected heavily on various chat groups for work and otherwise too.

Many of you might share the fear that you might be left out of the buzz if you are not connected in the group chats. May be true but let us make a general assessment. How many of the messages you read in a day are really relevant and beneficial to you?

To me, may be 10%. Logically then, if I am spending even 1/3 of my waking hours scrolling for messages that would make me more updated, informed, knowledgeable and so on and so forth, isn't that a colossal waste of time with little returns on investment?

My point is, the benefit of going digital is definitely obvious and does not warrant a debate but why abandon the beauty of connecting with people using the senses God has given us?

As more people circumvent the opportunity for face-to-face communication by using technology, those of us who choose to be different and capitalise on what is not in vogue today will stand out in the crowd professionally and at the personal level.

Today it is only common that a "Thank you" note from your boss would perhaps come to you on text message or via email. Of course it is acceptable but try saying "thank you" in person or even through a phone call and you would immediately know the charge it gives you.

In the business world, sending messages of recognition, congratulations or appreciation, or directing a request or an appeal through Twitter, texting, Facebook or email, is certainly faster and easier. But what is often missing in those communications is authenticity and forethought. When you put pen to paper, you are forced to think about what you are writing because you can't simply hit the delete key.

The fact that it takes longer to write out a personal note also speaks volumes to the recipients – that you took valuable time from your busy day to write a note just for them. Not just a personal note, but a personal handwritten note. It's the difference between receiving a gift of a scarf, for example, from a local department store, and one that someone created especially for you. Both are thoughtful, but the handcrafted gift means more.

I will not deny the thrill I still get at receiving festive greeting cards signed personally as opposed to receiving e-cards.

Change is the only constant but as we progress, I suppose there is no harm in reminiscing and poring over some things we wish hadn't changed.