Our friend Kellan recently got AOL. She squeals every time someone sends her an instant message. She'll spend hours hunched over her keyboard typing out a conversation with someone who may not even go to Lake Forest High. (1.14)
And so the age of modern communication begins. Believe it or not, it wasn't as easy to have personal conversations with total strangers you've never seen before until the Internet was invented—and in 1996, Kellan finds it a major novelty that she can chat with a stranger while staring at a screen inside her bedroom. This was definitely a huge shift in the way that people interact with each other.
Josh shakes his head. "My parents don't want to get the Internet. They say it's a waste of time, and my mom thinks the chatrooms are full of perverts." (1.16)
Guess what? When the Internet came around, lots of parents were pretty skeptical about this new type of communication. The telephone was a huge deal back in the day, but this is communication to a whole new level—it can help someone hide who they are and pretend to be just about anybody.
"Why would anyone say this stuff about themselves on the Internet? It's crazy!"
"Exactly," I say. "I'm going to be mentally ill in fifteen years, and that's why my husband doesn't want to be around me." (5.30-31)
Josh and Emma's minds are blown by Emma's status updates about unemployment and therapy. These are both really personal issues, and in the 1990s, people generally handled them by discussing them with their nearest and dearest… which, since this required a phone call or face-to-face conversation, definitely didn't include four hundred other people.
"I wasn't walking fast because I'm excited," I say, "I just hate it when you… you know… touch my hair and stuff."
"I'm sorry," Emma says, and I know she gets it. She doesn't want to hurt our friendship either. That's why she let me put distance between us for the past six months. (8.14-15)
Body language is a very important part of communication. Emma and Josh are in a rough patch in their friendship, but Emma's body language has a tendency to not match up with her words. She gave Josh a strict verbal declaration that they're just friends, but still gets touchy sometimes. It's called a mixed signal, and it makes Josh uncomfortable.
We were standing right next to Clarence and Millicent when Josh said, "I really like you, Emma."
I smiled. "I really like you, too."
"I'm glad," he said, and then he stepped close like he was about to kiss me.
I stumbled back. "No," I said, shaking my head. "You're… Josh."
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I could see how much I hurt him. (13.17-21)
Major communication fail: Josh failed to pick up on the fact that Emma didn't like him that way. And rather than finding the best words to turn her best friend down, Emma blurts out a quick response that hurts their friendship. This moment is kind of a big deal in the story because it seriously interrupted the great communication that Josh and Emma had before.
On my way here, I slipped a note through the vents in his locker, saying I wouldn't see him until band. That way he won't hunt me down for a makeout session before class. Eventually we need to have the breakup talk, just not this morning. (17.9)
Emma is using a written note to avoid Graham, rather than break up with him right away. She's making a lot of extra work (and stress) for herself because she won't communicate with him directly. Is this better for anybody? We don't think so. Graham is just confused, and the longer Emma waits, the more stressed out she is about it.
"This might be tougher," Mrs. Tuttle says. She looks at her clipboard and reads, "If things are moving too fast sexually, and a girl is visibly upset, should the boy stop even if the girl hasn't said the word no?" (20.34)
In Peer Issues class, the teacher is helping students explore different ways that they communicate in relationships. She raises a really important question here: Is language necessary to tell someone what you want? Or are there non-verbal cues that are equally effective?
"You're making that face," Emma says as she types in her email address.
"Like you're judging me."
"I'm going to speak as calmly as I can," she says. "The way you're judging me means you're not even trying to understand what that life felt like for me." (26.18-21)
Here's that body language again, this time mixed with a lack of using verbal language to express feelings. Emma's upset because Josh isn't putting himself in her shoes—if he did, he'd understand that she was miserable with her future. But he's too busy thinking about Sydney Mills to open himself up to communicating with Emma about what she's going through.
With her sunglasses on and her hair spilling around her shoulders, Sydney looks content with whatever life tosses her way. It's the exact opposite of how I feel. [But something amazing must happen between now and then because, at this moment, we don't feel right for each other. If we started dating now, I can't imagine things lasting through the summer. (47.48)
Josh is hitting a brick wall with Sydney Mills. Sure, she's every guy's dream, but they don't really have chemistry, which is definitely a type of communication. Without chemistry, is the rest of it really worth it?
Difficult decision, but I'm considering canceling my Facebook account. I should spend more time living in the here and now. Anyone who needs to reach me knows how. (56.62)
A big part of communicating effectively is being aware of the present and what's truly going on around you. Emma's future self has spent so much time with this online method of communication that she's neglecting her real life—and here, she's finally realized that she is too dependent on Facebook and needs to plug back into her daily reality.