Critiquing this killjoy column

Michael Alcorn
Posted 8/31/21

“What we have here ... is a failure … to communicate.” Sometimes it feels like that is our entire existence. And never more so than in the last 18 months. But, from personal experience, let me …

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Critiquing this killjoy column

Posted

“What we have here ... is a failure … to communicate.”

Sometimes it feels like that is our entire existence. And never more so than in the last 18 months. But, from personal experience, let me give you a glimpse into the extent of the problem.

Two months ago I wrote a column about the sudden, and, to me, inexplicable, presence of a Professional Pickleball League, complete with television contracts and sideline reporters. In this column, I lamented the fact that we, as a nation, have taken what was intended as nothing more than a fun and aerobic activity and turned it into something professionally competitive. It reminds me of how American Ninja Warrior was so cool at first, but then became overrun by professionals. But, at the same time, at three different places in the column I extolled the virtues of the sport — I have nothing against pickleball, and I thought I made that clear.

Then, just about a month ago, I wrote a column in which I quoted Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott from “Star Trek.” In said quote, I credited Scotty, with a tongue-in-cheek nod towards the idea that the quote was probably from somewhere else and owes nothing of its etymology to Gene Roddenberry. I know the quote is an old Scottish proverb — I just think it’s funny to credit it to a futuristic source.

Well, you might be able to imagine what happened with those two columns: I was, apparently, neither clear nor funny.

On the first, I received a response via Letter to the Editor calling me a killjoy (for the record, my wife and daughters totally agree — nothing to do with pickleball, they just agree); on the second, another Letter giving a detailed account of the history and usages of the old Scottish proverb. Now, keep in mind that I love to engage and to elicit a response from my audience — all seven of you (yes, even the one of you out there who called me a “narcissistic blowhard” — great insult!). And I (think) I know both of the authors of those responses, and they are both intelligent men with basically good natures. So for my verbiage to fall so flat with them puts a very interesting light on communication as a whole.

Let me put it this way: if my intent, using 8-ish column-inches and roughly 650 words, was so badly misconstrued, how often do we completely misunderstand that which is attempted to be communicated via 180-character Tweet, 3-line Facebook post, or emoji-laden text message.

LOL.

And, if we, as “grown ups,” have such difficulty deciphering intent from limited linguistic input, how much harder do you suppose it is for a 16-year old, 80% of whose communication is via these means of input?

This, parents, is why I continue to strongly encourage having telephone conversations with your children as much as is feasible, rather than conversing by text. If for no other reason than that it exposes them to the act of using the language and hearing the nuance in the delivery.

And, tangentially, I would be watching for an uptick of Autism diagnoses in five to seven years, as all these babies who are toddling in a world hidden behind masks become members of their school communities (inability to understand the communicative aspects of facial expression and the nuances of interpersonal communication is one of the markers of Autism Spectrum Disorder).

Yeah ... probably gonna get some mail about that one, too.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at mjalcorn@comcast.net. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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