Criticize this killjoy column |


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

Sometimes it feels like it’s our whole existence. And never more than in the past 18 months. But, from my personal experience, let me give you an overview of 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, with TV contracts and reporters on the side. In this column, I lamented the fact that we, as a nation, took what was supposed to be nothing more than a fun, aerobic activity and turned it into something competitively. professional. It reminds me of how so cool American Ninja Warrior was at first, but then took on the pros. But, at the same time, in three different places in the column, I touted the virtues of the sport – I have nothing against pickleball, and I thought I made that clear.

Then, just over 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 wry nod that the quote probably came from somewhere else and owes none of its etymology to Gene Roddenberry. I know the quote is an old Scottish proverb – I just think it’s funny attributing it to some futuristic source.

Well, you can maybe imagine what happened with those two columns: I was, apparently, neither clear nor funny.

On the first one, I got 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 uses of the old Scottish proverb. Now keep in mind that I love to engage and elicit a response from my audience – all seven of you (yes, even the one of you who called me a “narcissistic breath” – a big insult! ). And I (think) know the two authors of these answers, and they are both intelligent men with basically good natures. So, that my verbiage falls so flat with them sheds a very interesting light on communication as a whole.

Let me put it this way: if my intention, using 8 inch columns and around 650 words, has been so misinterpreted, how many times do we not fully understand what is being attempted to be communicated via a Tweet? 180 characters, 3 lines Facebook or SMS post containing emojis.


And, if we as “adults” have such a hard time deciphering intention from limited language input, how much more difficult do you think it is for a 16 year old teenager, of which 80% of the communication is done via these means of entry?

That is why, parents, I continue to strongly encourage phone conversations with your children as much as possible, rather than texting conversations. If for no other reason than that, it exposes them to the act of using the tongue and hearing the nuance in the delivery.

And, tangentially, I would expect a slight increase in autism diagnoses in five to seven years, as all those babies who scamper through a world hidden behind masks become members of their school community (inability to understand the communicative aspects of facial expression and the nuances of interpersonal communication is one of the markers of autism spectrum disorders).

Yeah … I’ll probably get emails about that too.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. Her new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at [email protected] His views are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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