Intellectual intercourse interruptions

Pretty much what I learned in school. Unfortunately this is woefully incorrect.

Who doesn’t love a healthy dose of intercourse? I know I do.

But before proceeding further, perhaps we’d better define things a bit. Possible (and germane to this posting) definitions of the word include:

(noun) exchange especially of thoughts or feelings
(noun) communication and actions between people

For the purposes of this discussion we will disregard other definitions. (Minds out of the gutter, people!)

Sadly, these days, true intercourse is such a rare thing I feel like we’ve all taken a vow of interpersonal celibacy.

So what is “communication?” Don’t answer too quickly. The question is just a bit trickier than it seems.

Ask that question of any member of genus Modern Homo Sapiens and you’ll likely get an answer like this: “Communication is when I speak and you listen.” Note the implied message here: The reverse is not automatically true.

What I learned in college is that “communication” requires four essential components:

  • Sender (shown above as “emisor”)
  • Receiver (shown as “destination”)
  • Message (shown as “content”)
  • Medium (shown as “form”)

“Medium” is the method of transmitting a message. It could be sound waves traveling from my mouth to your ear. It could be an electrical signal connecting two telephones across the country. Or it could be something like a computer disc.

The point here is that, as far as communication is concerned, all four of those components are vital. If any single component is missing then communication cannot take place.

A modern communicator in the revised model

The model depicted above, it turns out, is incorrect. Like a lot of theories, our understanding can change over time. The modern era has proven the old model of communication to be insufficient and outdated. The time has come to revise our theories.

Generation Y may be the most “bombarded” in history. Baby boomers and Generation X mainly had to deal with television. But Gen Y is faced with omnipresent cell phones, texting, the internet, and a constant barrage of new media that is close to infringing on their brains in a continually 24/7 assault.

Think 24/7 is a bit of hyperbole? An exaggeration? Think again. A 2010 poll by the Pew Research Group found that two-thirds of American adults have slept with their phones on or right next to their beds. And that number jumps to over 90% in the 18 to 29 age group.

That is an amazing poll! I would argue that never before in the history of civilization has a generation taken adopted such a completely new behavior so universally and in such a short period of time.

It used to be that self-expression was limited to entertainers and authors. The vast majority of the public limited themselves to expression in the form of tshirts and bumper sticker.

These days, the soap box has gotten immensely bigger and the world a whole lot smaller. The internet has made “publishers” out of us all. We went from a culture of consumers to a society of producers at light speed. Now we all can have our own video channels, recording studios, art galleries, photo exhibits, blogs and even interactive social networking where we are rated, respected, judged and admired based on how many “followers” and “friends” we have garnered.

In other words, there has been an intense paradigm shift. No longer do we merely and passively absorb content that is beamed in our direction. Now we actively create it.

To put it in a slightly different perspective, it is now about the “me” more than ever before.

And this is exactly where communication has taken a hit.

Your typical modern human being is so busy generating “me-based” content, that this activity has essentially formed a new and unforeseen barrier in the outdated communication model. I have dubbed this discovery the “Me-Barrier.”

This Me-Barrier is so intense and invasive, it can actually block the communication process. An excellent analogy is a person with lips flapping so loudly that their ears can no longer hear other sounds.

On the roof of ibn Tulun

A very modern conversation

Gen Y, absorbed in their own culture, and raised within it since birth, is completely unaware of the Me-Barrier. They see other persons as nothing more than mirrors to be used only to seek their own reflections. Their awareness is limited to social “pinging” which exists solely to see if the other person is talking about or responding to them. If not, the person is deemed irrelevant and the person either resumes transmission of me-based content or begins searching for a new audience. In either case, the acceptance of outside input and stimuli does not take place. There is no communication.

To put all of this in context, you can look for and identify this phenomenon and Me-Barrier in daily life. Do you know someone who loves to tell stories about themselves in excruciating detail but won’t ever listen to anyone else? Do you know someone who interrupts whenever anyone speaks or attempts to join in a conversation? If so, you have just successfully identified the Me-Barrier.

Once you know how to look for it, you’ll notice that the Me-Barriers are more plentiful than you could have ever possibly imagined.

In my own personal experience, I happen to be one member of a three-person team at my job. Two members have extremely developed Me-Barriers. These function much like the guns in the movie Ghostbusters where it was strongly admonished, “Never cross the streams!” When Me-Barriers come into contact with each other, the sparks can really fly!

I can only sit back and clinically observe as these two people interrupt each other then begin an escalation in the form of vocalizations that get increasingly loud. It only takes a few microseconds for them both to be yelling over the top of the other and neither of them are listening. It is truly a sight to see. (And hear.)

Normally, identifying the problem is the first step towards working for a solution. In this case, however, I sadly see no way out. Our culture, our society, and even our entire country is at risk, due to the Me-Barrier and it’s powerful interruption of the flow of knowledge. Soon we’ll be left with nothing but drooling idiots talking to ourselves.

This is my “I” post for the April 2011 “A to Z Blogging Challenge.”

10 responses

  1. Your observations are, of course, dead on my friend. If there’s a saving grace in all of this, it’s that the drooling idiots are so wrapped up in their technological “mirrors” that they leave the rest of us alone. 😐


    1. Thanks. And I agree. They leave us alone, but only “mostly.” They still cause plenty of collateral damage, damn them.


  2. Ford Prefect foresaw the Me-Barrier in A Htichhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when he assumed that human beings talk incessantly in order to stop their brains from working. I would like to know if ‘I’ am now the medium as well as the message?


    1. Ford Prefect. Of course! And he was smart enough to hitch a ride off this experiment of a planet, too.

      I understand what you mean about combining components of the model. That’s certainly what the humanoid forces invading Earth are trying to do. I think, though, in the end that means there won’t be any communication at all. I wonder what will happen then? We’ll be back to what it was like in the Stone Age!


  3. I regularly piss off a coworker who asks things like (this morning’s): What movie are you talking about? I’ll answer, “The same ONE I’ve been recommending to YOU for 3 months.”

    She’s pissed. Well, so am I. I don’t love REPEATING myself. You’re not listening and that’s fine but then don’t get interested when I’m talking about it to somebody ELSE who loves it, too. “Oh, shit! It’s COOL? Then, I need it now.”

    She’s also the one who copies everything I do (purse, phone, books)–but only after I’ve been doing it long enough that it’s “proven.”

    She’s 6 years older but acts like she’s 20 (between the inability to care unless it’s going to serve her cool-factor).

    People are strange.


    1. Addendum to my post:

      How to evaluate communication input

      Step 1:
      Give a cursory listen to determine the content of the input

      Step 2:
      If content is about “me” allow speaker to continue for a bit

      If content is not about “me,” interrupt and change topic of conversation to anything about “me”

      Step 3:
      Repeat as needed


  4. It’s depressing how accurate you are about this.


    1. Oh, god! I love being depressing. Thanks for making my day! I’m so happy.

      Shit! Just lost it. That didn’t take long. 🙂


  5. My kids do this.
    My wife and I call it a “feedback loop.”
    Once one of them starts pulling shit on the other, the loop is initiated and escalates rapidly. The only way to stop it is physical intervention. That’s why I keep a spray bottle in the car.


    1. Brilliant. Both the spray bottle technique and your discovery and identification of the feedback loop. I hope you published your findings in a respected journal for peer review!


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