Dad, what's chewing gum?

Dad, what's chewing gum?

Summary: Last week, I overheard a father explaining to his two young kids what chewing gum was. It then dawned on me that there is now a generation of youngsters in Singapore that have never experienced, much less know what a piece of gum looks like or how it functions.

SHARE:
2

Last week, I overheard a father explaining to his two young kids what chewing gum was. It then dawned on me that there is now a generation of youngsters in Singapore that have never experienced, much less know what a piece of gum looks like or how it functions.

If you didn't know already, the Singapore government banned the sale and import of chewing gum--apart from those used for therapeutic purposes--in 1992. This infamous piece of legislation helped put the small island on primetime news headlines and wires across the globe.

But that's not the main point of my discussion today. Chewing gum and other outlandish legislation aside, there's now a generation of people worldwide who have never hand-written a letter in their young life and who never had to comb through Yellow Pages or an encyclopedia to look up a contact or piece of information.

While I fully embrace the Internet revolution and all the benefits it offers, I do wonder how it has affected basic social behavior and etiquette.

New-tech communications tools such as e-mail, IM and SMS, have cultivated a culture where there seems to be disdain against people who don't reply to e-mail, and where celebrities like Britney Spears who thought nothing of sending a text message to hubby Kevin Federline announcing her plans to file for divorce.

On several instances, I've had to hold long-drawn discussions over IM and SMS simply because the other party was more comfortable 'speaking' via text--one of them even refused to pick up the phone after I insisted on carrying on the discussion over a proper conversation.

I use IM and SMS on a daily basis to communicate with both my friends and co-workers, but there is a limit--at least, in my view--to what kinds of discussions should be held using such tools.

Short sentences in an e-mail message can appear curt and brusque, even if the other party meant no disrespect to the recipient.

And, most of the time, we speak and think faster than we can type so we tend to "summarize" when we converse via IM even though it's still in real-time. This can lead to potential misunderstanding and a serious case of miscommunication.

I'm concerned that there are some who have become so used to communicating via these new tools that it's the only way they can hold a proper conversation.

While unpleasant to have, arguments--most of the time--can only be properly resolved through a face-to-face discussion, where body language and facial expressions play important parts in easing the tension of a confrontation.

Besides, how can one have a heart-to-heart talk over plain text?

Topic: Social Enterprise

About

Eileen Yu began covering the IT industry when Asynchronous Transfer Mode was still hip and e-commerce was the new buzzword. Currently a freelance blogger and content specialist based in Singapore, she has over 16 years of industry experience with various publications including ZDNet, IDG, and Singapore Press Holdings.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

2 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • well, on the other hand, that is why Yahoo or MSN has interesting emoticons to help express emotions, break the ice, soften the ground potential edgy discussions and jazz up the conversations...
    anonymous
  • Hi Eileen,

    Thanks for a very interesting piece. :-)

    I think the state of communications now reflects the incapacity of people to communicate in means non-eletronic (caveat: while VoIP is electronic, it still relies on voice). Happened before in one of my previous agencies... e-mail went down, so they felt they couldn't work or communicate with clients... until I reminded them that we still have a working internal network, a working printer, a working fax machine and a working telephone.

    We worked slower that day, but still did some work...

    However, I think that you can have a heart-to-heart chat over plain text (with the help of some emoticons...). I believe that the key in this is to have it one-on-one, and not mass-chat IRC style which requires you to monitor multiple simultaneous chats.

    This is because by observing how long the other person takes to respond (the IM programme will indicate that the other party is typing a message), you can see how quick the other person is to respond... conversely, you can sense that the other person is taking his time to choose his words carefully, and meaningfully. (This assumes that the person is at the keyboard and is not off to get a coffee or to the loo.)

    So yes, I've had many long and meaningful discussions over IM, partly because I'm more comfortable writing than speaking, but also because I observe how careful the other person is in their response and know that they are truly sharing themselves with me. :-)

    Cheers,
    Stephen
    anonymous