When Technology Goes Wrong

Frequent readers will know that last week, because of International Women’s Day, Sasha and the rest of Ukraine was on holiday for a couple of days from Thursday. Then there was a weekend and, not that it is an issue for you, it meant that we were, in effect, out of contact for four days.

I tried. I sent messages, but nothing came back. I phoned, but there was no answer. It just rang and rang. I hated not being able to say, hello.

She didn’t answer any messages on Viber or answer her phone when I called. Maybe it is my rampant imagination, but all sort of accident scenarios came to mind. Three thousand miles is a long way just to pop round and see if everything was OK. Among all the scenarios I worked through, the one thing I didn’t think was the obvious, her phone was broken.

Now that we have resumed contact and my nerve ends have calmed I have thought about the experience.

As I look at my computer and smartphone I can use email, Viber, WhatsApp, WeChat or I could just phone and talk. I have multiple business and personal email addresses to monitor. The range is frightening. Sasha, because of her work also has multiple phones. But, still, we didn’t manage to communicate.

Read the internet and there are millions of articles reminding us just how important good communications are. You know it all. This is one example, it is no doubt that communication plays a vital role in human life. It not only helps to facilitate the process of sharing information and knowledge but also helps people to develop relationships with others.

We know that. We don’t need to be reminded.

Mothers and fathers all over the country are waiting for their offspring to utter a first word. Unless we talk or communicate we can’t educate and learn. It is also simplistic and a huge understatement to say communications helps people to develop relationships. Relationships, business or personal are all about communications.

I am an avid reader of the internet and with my background in data management, I rank myself as a bit of a whiz at finding things. I understand how search terms work and I use different search engines. I read many ideas about what a company should do to communicate both successes and problems. I read about individuals who can’t communicate for both physical and emotional reasons but nothing about how to manage my emotions when we want to communicate but technology fails us.

I know I can’t be unique and the only one to suffer.

It started long ago. I remember when I was a teenager. It is so long ago there were no mobile phones, no internet, nor email. There was just the landline phone sitting on a table in the hall. I might have met a girl and we would meet on a Saturday night and then maybe only have one short call before meeting again. Even those calls were fraught with tension as we would run the wrath of parents by phoning her at home. My abiding memories of those days were less of love but more the agony and pain of not being able to talk and plan our next tryst.

We may have moved technology forward from my teenage days, but the problems remain.

If you don’t know Sasha and I are living a long-distance relationship where good, honest, and open communications are core. In a long-distance relationship, we rely on technology more than most people. If that technology fails, we have a problem.

We write to each other every day and there is a routine and habit. I send my letters overnight and those from Sasha arrive mid-morning. It is comforting in its repetitiveness but when a letter doesn’t arrive, as happened for a period when the ISP started rejecting my emails, panic ensues. Of course, I didn’t know there is a problem. I have written and sent a letter and so, just assume that it will arrive.

Again, all those thoughts of accidents or illness were to the fore. For Sasha, it was made worse when last year I was a frequent visitor to hospitals and every visit could be but wasn’t bad news. I received urgent and concerned messages from Kiev.

Of course, when you think messages and emails are just heading into the ether there is always the obvious alternative. We could just phone each other.

Now, at least, my days are not rushed. I work sitting at my computer trying to find appropriate words. There is a routine and predictability. At times it gets boring and I want to contact Sasha. I can send a message, or better I can phone.

But Sasha’s life is less structured. She works on projects organising models for photo shoots or is herself the model. Her workday is busy, chaotic, and doesn’t have the same tempo as mine. She is not available to communicate at a whim. I know this, I understand but still, it can drive me round the bend.

We assume that because the other person has a phone we should be able to speak to them anytime we want, but the phone is the most obtrusive of devices. It sits there, ringing and demanding to be answered.

I am always complaining that we don’t talk enough on the phone. I say it doesn’t matter if it is only for a minute we need the contact. What I really mean is that I need the contact and more importantly, when it suits me. We haven’t yet resolved that issue, but we are working on a solution.

I was never precisely sure what Marshall McLuhan meant when in the 1950s he said, the medium is the message. Many have tried to explain it me but here maybe is an example of what he meant. The availability of technology has set new expectations which we can’t always live up to.

Long distance relationships are not easy, but the new technologies make it easier than it once was. Of course, all relationships need trust, we need to be open and honest but more important we need the technology to work.