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Modern forms of communication leave something to be desired

One of my younger friends passed away earlier this month. Brian was one of my longtime gaming buddies. I really don’t even remember when we first met, but I would guess it was 15 or 20 years ago. We first got acquainted playing some military simulation board games, but, for the past few years, we were playing an auto racing game.We started our game about three years ago, playing entirely by email. I serve as the moderator of the game, coordinating moves from 23 other players from around the world — England, Canada, Sicily and several states. Our most recent race started about a month ago. Brian had sent in a few early messages, but then I received a message that simply said, “Brian’s in the hospital and can’t play your game.” I queried my Michigan friends, and no one knew anything about Brian’s condition. He had been plagued by hearing problems for as long as I had known him, and no one else knew of anything else wrong with him.Someone went to visit him and then sent to us the sobering news that Brian had suffered kidney failure, and the rest of his organs were failing as a result. He had mere weeks to live. He lived only another week, passing away on Nov. 8 at age 42. I turned 48, an age Brian would never see, on Nov. 9.For three years, my friends and I have played a silly game of moving cars around a track (electronic cars on a screen, at that). While we have used the game to stay in contact, our messages were succinctly related to the game. Early on, we did “highlight” each player with some brief background information, but that was so long ago.Email and texting have made communicating so quick and so easy, but I feel saddened that that same ease has devalued our communication. We now talk instantaneously in 140-character bursts or even shorter “tweets,” but what are we really saying? We post minute and irrelevant details on Facebook and YouTube, and then spend hours reading or watching the drivel that others post.Our social media has made us unsocial in face-to-face situations. Stand on a street corner and watch how many people are engrossed with their phone or encased by their earbuds. No one says, “Hello.” Who would hear you? Our parks are filled with people who, instead of interacting with each other, stare at screens and fiddle with miniature keyboards. Yes, I have caught myself at times being a prisoner to my phone.This weekend, why don’t you sent your phone down, except for perhaps a call to other family members to actually talk to them. Turn off the texting, silence the email. Look at the people to whom you are talking rather than a blinking cursor.I have always enjoyed writing, but the computer has diminished the social aspects of writing. Will historians share the tweets between President and First Lady Obama with the same interest of the letters exchanged between John and Abigail Adams? Some schools have elected to even stop teaching cursive, announcing that writing is dead — long live the keyboard!Several years ago, I gave journals to each of my daughters. My instructions to them were simple — for my birthday, take some time to write a brief summary of the previous year from your perspective. I, in turn, would write a response and offer the journals to them on Christmas morning. The journals are now into their seventh year. I will hand off the journals to the girls on their wedding days.To re-read the journals gives me plenty of things for which to be thankful. My “childish” hobby of boardgaming has added thankful moments and, more importantly, people to my life. So to my daughters, thank you, and have a safe holiday season and wonderful year. I can’t wait to hug and kiss you again. To my gaming friends, let’s look away from the screen a little more and strive to meet in person for a game, or at least share a little more than we shared with Brian.This weekend, look as many of your friends in the eyes and tell them for what you are thankful. Let me take this opportunity (since I won’t see all of you) to thank you, the Winsted community, for welcoming me to be a part of this town. I hope to share many more holidays with you. Be safe. Dale Martin is the town manager of Winchester.

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