I 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?”
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?