For many people, sending multiple text messages to friends is a normal expression of intimacy.
But is it really? Richland psychologist Allen Johnson doesn't think so.
"Am I the only one who sees something wrong in that?" he asked. "Is it possible the quantity of communication is rising exponentially as the quality of communication is in rapid decline?"
Johnson and fellow Tri-City psychologist Mike Pieracci decided the issue is important enough that they created a twice-a-month discussion group.
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He calls it The Reflection Cafe, and the first one is at 7 p.m. Thursday at Rosy's Diner, 404 Bradley Blvd., Suite 106, in Richland.
It's open to anyone, and it is free.
Johnson said he recently taught a course at Washington State University Tri-Cities on interpersonal communications, and "at the end of the course I asked the students what they could do to improve their communication."
One student said he wanted to increase the level of intimacy among his friends. Johnson said that was a noble goal and asked how he planned to do that.
The student answered that he would text his friends more often.
Johnson couldn't have been more dumbfounded.
"I have always been passionate about community, now more than ever," Johnson said. "The Reflection Cafe is designed to address the loss of intimacy, the loss of community."
He's betting there are a good number of people who are looking for the same thing. He describes Reflection Cafe as a place to gather, to talk about big ideas, to share and to listen.
"When was the last time you were invited to dinner at someone's home who was not a relative?" he asked. "For me, it may be once or twice a year. When I was a kid it was at least once a week."
He recalls the days when bowling leagues were the rage, and a ringing phone was cause for celebration.
"Not anymore," Johnson said. "Now you are lucky if someone picks up."
And when you do run into a friend you haven't seen in a while, he said, the conversation is usually brief, ending with, " 'Hey, we'll have to get together sometime' ... which is really a euphemism for 'I can't be bothered right now, and probably never.' "
The discussions will be about 90-minute sessions, with the first one focused on what community is.
"All of us know what small talk is," Johnson said. "The Reflection Cafe is about big talk, about addressing the serious questions that are avoided at the office water cooler on Monday morning.
"You can think of the Reflection Cafe as a church for heretics," Johnson said. "It's heretical in the sense that it does not follow a prescribed dogma. This is not a guru-based initiative.
"My only task is to give participants an opportunity to express their thoughts without judgment. We are simply seeking to understand."