I’m not opposed to change! Well, let’s say I’m not opposed to most change. Moreover I should say I think it’s important to consider the long range implications of changes and consider how they might impact our social structures and what we as a society of human beings are going to cope with, modify or ameliorate the unintended results of those changes. Take for example, the advent of the smartphone. We submerge ourselves in the details of our cell phone plans, count our minutes and review the pros and cons of our contract’s small print; we obsess over getting the best WIFI connections that will allow instant access to our bank accounts, emails and navigate us from place to place. We focus on buying the newest models, cover designs and multi-device charging stations; we invent and re-invent tiny keyboards in order to perform a multitude of texting options so we can stay in constant contact with each other about the most mundane and innocuous of matters.
Have we every considered how all this instant mechanical connection with everything in the universe might affect us? Between word processing programs and cell phones we hardly have to know how to spell a word much less even know what the word is before our brilliant devices types it out for us. We have to know less of what we used to have to know – like how to spell and yet know more than we ever imagined having to know about modems, passwords and motherboards. But aside from changing the boundaries of our cognitive world, these changes have impacted our psychological and social fabric in ways too numerous to enumerate. Consider for a moment the much discussed issue of privacy. News reports describe how the NSA is impinging on our privacy but have we considered how we ourselves are doing that as well? We stroll down the street, stand next to strangers in elevators, sit in our offices or restaurants and indulge ourselves in the most personal conversations imaginable. We reprimand our children, fight with our spouses, discuss our Visa card charges, make dinner plans, gossip about our ‘friends’ and discuss our health with our doctor all out there in public. People even talk on their cell phones in public restrooms where not only is their conversation heard by all present but the sounds of those in adjacent stalls are being broadcast across phone lines as well. Talk about invasion of privacy!
It’s all out there in front of strangers, friends, children, store clerks and whoever else might be around. Parents on an outing with their children spend half their time talking on their phones to their co-workers or having ‘adult conversations’ with people other than the ones they’re with! They stroll through the mall, their children tagging along behind, bored and ignored, while their mothers jabber constantly with other people. Then those mothers wonder why their children don’t pay attention to them. They wonder why those children don’t communicate with them, or make eye-contact or have good social skills. Really?
Before too long our little ones will be talking on their own phones to their friends doing the same thing their parents have done for years and the parents will be yelling at them to get off their cellphones and do their homework! WE are becoming or maybe have become a society of mechanically focused people. We have come to rely on those little hand-held devices to connect us with everyone and to do it constantly. The social skills of good meaningful conversation, problem solving, cooperating and negotiating have been reduced to Zeros and Ones and to tiny letters on a keyboard. Fingers fly faster than the speed of light as we communicate our thoughts and respond to others thoughts. But there is one problem with this. Thoughts are not all there is to communication. Thoughts actually may be over-rated when considering important interpersonal communications or a more personal nature. Consider for a moment the importance of tone of voice, facial expression and body language. Consider for a moment the importance of pausing and listening to another person speaking, being respectful and non-verbally supportive. Consider for a moment the importance of touch. No wonder many of people feel alienated or misunderstood. No wonder it is so hard to maintain a personal relationship. Phone conversations are not the same as face to face ones and the further out you get on the digital highway the less and less real and meaningful they are.
Have you ever walked into a restaurant and seen a table where everyone is busy staring at a small handheld device? Playing games, texting, chatting doing anything but looking at the person across from them having a conversation. Is it any secret that many of us fail to learn simple social skills like looking at and talk politely with someone? We are habituated to talking through some type of device! Let’s face it, it’s easier. It’s easier to type a few words than get dressed up and go someplace and spend the evening trying to relate to someone. If you have a phone you may just prefer it that way. Phone sex may become the norm – you don’t have to make conversation you can just dispatch with all the social niceties required for personal relationships and just spend a few minutes on the phone with a stranger.
Here’s a scenario to consider. It’s 2050! We can text 1000 words a minute on magic instant phones that are hooked up to your brain for convenience. You receive a notice that it’s your turn according to the government’s procreation calendar to have a child. You dial the Procreation Center’s 1-800 number and arrange for the ‘partner’ of your choice. Your payment is automatically deducted from your PayPal account. You then spend a few minutes on the phone ‘doing what comes naturally,’ the appropriate deposit is deposited in a sealed container and delivered to your phone sex partner via instant messaging’s instant delivery service and bada boom bada bing you have met your government allotted quota. No fuss no muss you go about your business of long distance relating in the sterile world of computer science and Star Trek actualization.