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  • Writer Login


    Connected Disconnect

    by | 6 | Feb 19, 2010

    LikeTheDew's Facebook pageI still don’t receive text messaging. I sort of see it as my “last stand” in the technological takeover. I’ve come to rely on my cell phone, e-mail, facebook, YouTube and all of those other addictive things that make our lives “better.” I can’t go anywhere without my cell phone. If I discover that I’ve left home without it, I panic. All these scenarios where I’ll need my phone pop into my head—car breaking down, getting in a wreck, being chased by an ax murderer, etc. There aren’t many pay phones still around and a lot of us are too scared of each other to help out or ask for help. You never know if that person asking for help in the grocery store parking lot really needs help or just using that as an excuse to rob you … or chase you with an ax. Cell phones are the adult security blanket.

    I was in college when Facebook was introduced, so I was one of the first to have an account. You had to be associated with one of the approved schools in order to get on. It was a different world back then. (I can imagine the stories I’m going to tell my grandchildren.) I thought Facebook was one of the stupidest things I had seen and resisted until my friends finally pressured me to join.

    Now it’s one of my main forms of communication. I know that when I can’t get someone to respond to a phone call or e-mail, he/she will respond via Facebook. I may not go to my first high school reunion in a few years because I can see most of those people online, find out who got fat and which nerds became successful, without ever having to interact with any of them. Most people post more than enough information about themselves, so I’ll never have to talk to them if I ever get curious about what they’ve become. It’s great. But it’s also the problem.

    A hot topic when I was in Journalism class was the Digital Dark Age that we’re in. All of this new stuff is being thrown at us faster than we can consume it and we’re having a difficult time keeping up with what’s being said and the format information should be stored. We’re lacking in real community and becoming a society that’s afraid of face-to-face interaction. I’ve seen people my age and younger who didn’t know how to interact with people in a public setting. Sure, there have always been asocial people, but they used to be seen as deficient; now they’re becoming the norm. When there is a communication breakthrough where people connect on a somewhat personal basis, it is dumbed down to text-speak such as this:

    “What R U doin?”

    “Nuthin lol U?”

    “Nuthin U want 2 do sumthin l8tr on?”

    “Mayb”

    We’re at risk of losing ourselves.

    I’m not trying to bash new technology all together. It definitely has its perks. I’m a web designer and videographer by profession, so new technology has given me a way to earn money. I just think that there have been some negative side effects.

    I find it interesting that while we have never had more ways to communicate, people, in general, have never been poorer at communicating. In college, I was heavily involved with a student organization and was often responsible for getting news out about events. Despite e-mail, Facebook, the Web site, printed announcements and live announcements during meetings, people would still miss events and complain that they heard nothing about it. Now that I’m out of college, I have to communicate in mass form with my group at church. It’s the same thing all over again. We’ve hit an overload and have put up blinders to block out many of the messages we are bombarded with each day. The consequence is that we miss the things that we actually want or need to hear and see.

    For instance, a friend told me recently that she forgot to return a DVD to the rental store and ended up paying more in late fees than it would have cost to buy the DVD. She said that she realized later that the rental store had been sending her reminder e-mails about her late DVD, but since it was from a company, she just deleted the e-mails without reading them. Because of all the ways that we can be reached and all the people who have taken advantage of those opportunities, we are suspicious of everything, even the information that is there to help us. This suspicion drives us deeper into isolation, avoiding real relationships for fear of being harmed by those relationships.

    All this raises the question, are the devices created to bring us closer together and make our lives better actually driving us farther apart and making our lives worse?

    ###
    April Adams

    April Adams

    April Adams is a South Carolinian with a passion for creating. She designs and develops Web sites and makes videos for a living as a freelancer. She’s also in love with the written word and its power to evoke emotion, change minds and move people to action.

     

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    • Meg Gerrish

      I’m currently reading the novel “Horns” by Joe Hill, who is one of Stephen King’s sons and a quality chip off the old block, if you like that block and I do. I haven’t finished the book yet, but the early pages may relate to your essay, April.

      The lead character woke one morning with an unfortunate ability. His presence causes strangers and loved ones alike to spew their thoughts unchecked. The grandmother our character adores always thought he was a freak. His mother blames him for every blemish in her life. You get the idea. The people that you love, unfiltered, will probably turn out to be different than you know.

      I find that about Facebook. I was coerced into joining as a way to be in touch with children living afar and it turned into some fun. Fun posting photos. Interesting to find old friends — childhood friends! — and seeing how their stories are going. Sharing joys and sorrows. Learning about local news that might have been missed if I relied on traditional media.

      This morning I engaged in my first de-friending. I had been warned about the mean spirit of this person (heretofore known as “Per”) by others over the years, but since our relationship had always been very friendly and open, I presumed to know better than those warning me off. Mean? Were they kidding? There isn’t a mean bone in Per’s body! Per is great!

      As it turns out, Per doesn’t like me even a little bit. I’m fairly obnoxious, equally in person and in my writings, so understandably can grate on the nerves. Lots of people don’t like me. “They’re just not that into me.” I’m fine with that. But acting as my friend for years? What was that? Per could have simply been cordial. We’d have used our good manners and kept our distance. Why pretend to be a friend?

      So then, who is Per, really? The kind, loving, funny Per seen during rare get-togethers (because of distance) or the one tapping on a keyboard while facing the screen in a mud room-home office? Is Per just showing off for core FB friends who all share Per’s political bent and so can’t be seen as friendly to me, with a different outlook? We had talked politics in person many times, disagreed with a laugh and carried on. For years! Is middle-aged Per still in high school, for crying out loud?

      I don’t know anymore.

      What is it for, then? Although we aren’t anonymous on FB as in other forms of digital communication, the ease with which we can push a button can cause real problems. This de-friending business, it’s fine today. But it’s going to be a problem at the next family reunion. I wish I didn’t know how Per felt about me. So to answer the question posed, April, on this day at our house, Facebook has made our lives worse.

      Texting though? “The date has changed,” “Don’t forget the casserole,” “Do we have milk in the fridge? I’ll pick some up if we don’t.” I’m fine with texting. Thanks, April!

      • C Smith

        Meg I was learning too much about my step-daughter (41) and her daughter(22) to the point I de-friended myself.(canceled my account which is no easy task at FB) Too much information exposed to the public. Nothing is sacred anymore.

    • Meg Gerrish

      There are a couple of relations in the FB gathering who blather such inane drivel that I despair for the future in my parent’s gene pool. But they are youngsters. Instead of de-friending, in those cases, I just “hide” them from the wall and then periodically check in to show support or commiserate when appropriate. We’re linked, but not overwhelmed. Of course, I didn’t get checks for having a lack of self-control on every school report card for nothin’. I’m certainly as guilty of inputting nonsense as anyone could be, and many have probably clicked “hide” on me, too! — Good morning, CSmith, and thanks

    • Texting is not an issue with me -- I don’t have cell phone coverage where I live. For this I am grateful.

    • A wise piece. I wrote a novel on the premise that technology has become too invasive. My main character went to the last wild island to escape cell phones … or so he thought. Like you, April, I don’t leave home without my cell phone and I am addicted to this iMac!

    • Eileen Dight

      April, you are such a good writer. Why don’t we hear more from you?

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