The “Miracle” of Communicating: Now and Then

After several years of difficulties and rebuilding, the Atlantic Telegraph was built to bring the world together. Engineers and Inventors worked tirelessly to modernize the simple ways of the Postal Service and offer a new technology that would allow for quick, easy communication across nations, continents and bodies of water.  Many often looked to the Atlantic Cable as a,  “a triumph more glorious, because far more useful to mankind, than was ever won by a conqueror on the field of battle” (Standage, 81). In its time, the new telegraph system was thought as a miracle, as it gave people the hope of connecting lands and reuniting people.  Similarly, in modern day, people often regard Facebook with similarly. Facebook prides itself on the motto “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” The social networking site gives its users the opportunity to make similar connections that the Atlantic Telegraph had promised centuries before. Therefore, the Atlantic Telegraphic of the late 1800s, foreshadowed the creation and expansion of connecting with others, like many social networking sites allow for today.

Despite its initial failure, the Atlantic Telegraph was often compared to the discovery of the New World: “since the discovery of Columbus, nothing has been done in any degree comparable to the vast enlargement which has thus been given to the sphere of human activity” (Standage, 83). The Atlantic Telegraph projected to reunite people, connect lands and allow the easy exchange of thought and information- many of the things that we, today, take for granted. In its ultimate peak, the new technology would bridge the gap of different worlds, providing strong ties to unite the human race and allow for peace. While some of the goals for Telegraph might seem lofty and idealistic in retrospect, it does bring up several strong points that propelled the need for a strong communication device forward.  Facebook, like the Atlantic Telegraph, allows its users to connect with virtually anyone, proving that communication forms are a necessity for the overall well being of society. As Henry Field wrote, “it brings the world together. It unites distant nations, making them feel that they are members of one great family” (Standage, 104). However, as Standage points out, better communication does not always lead to a greater understanding; the creation of new technologies (whether it is the Telegraph or Facebook) may appeal to people, but it does come with a cost.

So with this, I pose to you: do you feel that technologies like the Telegraph and social networking websites such as Facebook allow for its users to truly connect? Or is it just a lofty goal that only personal interaction can make up for?


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6 Responses to The “Miracle” of Communicating: Now and Then

  1. marinanazario says:

    I really like your theme that ties in current and old social networking and communications technology. I definitely see the Atlantic telegraph as being a positive feat in the communication revolution because, at that time, it opened up the future to global communication. I do believe that technologies like the telegraph and Facebook allow their users to truly connected because when you are at such a distance with someone (like transatlantic) how else are you supposed to connect or stay in contact with them? Yes, Facebook has its criticisms about people having a different personality online than offline, but you are still given the opportunity to talk to the person, exchange ideas etc. But connecting isn’t necessarily uniting which, for the people during the late 19th century, is what the telegraph was seen as doing. Like Field says “it unites distant nations”. So Facebook and the telegraph are seen as having two different goals, both with good intentions. But i wouldn’t say that the people who used the telegraph really connected with each other, and I wouldn’t say that Facebook is really used to unite people. But regardless of their good intentions, like you said it does come at a cost and with challenges, but I think that has to do more with the people using the technology, rather than the technology itself.

  2. mdhaas715 says:

    I too believe that technologies like the telegraph and Facebook allow users to truly connect because it allows people from all over the world to keep in touch and stay updated with each other when distance may forbid them from having in person interactions. Yet, I think it is important to consider that most people who are regularly connecting on social networking sites are people who already know each other and want to keep/strengthen their connection. I feel as though the people that are using social networking sites are doing so either because they can not have in person interactions or they are doing so in addition to having in person interactions. I don’t necessarily believe that these sites are allowing for greater understanding because things can still get lost in translation by being sent over the Internet and not expressed in person. When in person, people can pick up on other cues to understand what is being said instead of strictly relying on the words spoken or written. Despite these costs associated with social networking sites, I still believe that they are an important technological invention when it comes to fostering communication and connections among people both close and distant.

  3. srachelb says:

    I agree that the telegraph and Facebook are similar in the sense that they connect people who would otherwise not be connected in the absence of these technologies. In regards to the question you pose, however, I believe that the true effects of these technologies cannot be determined without establishing what “connecting” exactly means. Does simply being Facebook “friends” with someone mean that you are connected to them? Or is a connection only established if you use social networking sites such as Facebook to actually interact with someone (e.g. through messaging, sharing photos, wall postings)? I think the comparison of Facebook to the Atlantic Telegraph can be compared to Morozov’s concept of slacktivism, which he defines as an “apt term to describe feel-good online activism that has zero political or social impact.” I believe that by simply just adding somebody on Facebook, you are not necessarily connecting with them, but are being provided with the opportunity to establish a connection with them. Thus, I believe that social networking sites allow for two possibilities: the first of which is slacktivism. The second is that these sites do allow for users to truly connect, but it is up to the user to establish the connection; Facebook itself does not do this.

  4. cwcullen says:

    I really like your point about how people today seem to be taking technology for granted in terms of using it to communicate internationally. Before having read the readings this week, I did not realize that the Telegraph was projected to unite people all over the world and create world peace. It is disappointing that people aren’t taking advantage of the fact that today’s technological innovations, including the Internet and cell phones, provide us with the tools to connect with people over the world.

  5. jacobkeimach says:

    I think that nothing will replace face-to-face communication. Interacting with someone in person is a unique experience, we can gain many cues from body language and voice pitch that we cannot observe online or via telephone. It will never be possible to fully experience and interpret a conversation to the same degree as when two people are physically in the same space. That isn’t to say that new communication mediums don’t enable us to do many productive things. The possibility for connections with colleagues around the globe instantaneously allows us a greater window for collaboration and creation of new ideas.

  6. arieloz says:

    I agree with Jacob Keimach’s point that there are certain cues gained from face to face communication that are still lacking in technological means of communication. Body language and facial expressions are key to understanding what someone is saying. Additionally, different tones of someone’s voice can greatly alter the meaning of what that person is saying. I believe technology has begun to tackle some of these issues but has not been 100% successful. People often misread the tone behind someone’s texts. I know that I have been victim to cases of miscommunication when I have been offended by a friend’s text by misreading their tone. Skyping and face-timing allow you to hear the person’s tone of voice and facial expressions, but often does not show their body language. In conclusion, I believe technological communication allows people to connect, but not as strongly as in person communication does.

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