Almost anyone who has spent time with me since my return to the states has heard me bemoan the advances of technology. I think texting has gotten out of control,; think it’s crazy that people can’t put their work/email/phone down for more than five minutes and just relax,;I strongly feel that no one can plan anything in advance OR has patience because there is an expectant phone call saying “I’m coming right now” or “I’m late”. All in all, I think life was better when I was a kid and we didn’t have this stuff – or at least rely so heavily on it.
There is a commercial out, for T-Mobile I believe, that has kids waiting at the school bus stop and they are all texting. Instead of the kids waiting and talking to each other, sharing what they did over the weekend or playing catch or even reading a book, all of these kids are texting. There are three girls in a group, and five years ago they would have been showing each other their new shoes, but no – they aren’t having any human interaction with each other, just with their phones – probably sending a link to a picture of their shoes online.
Does no one else think this is a terrible message to send to today’s youth? Along the same lines, there is an episode of Two and a Half Men where Jake and his girlfriend are sitting on the couch next to each other and not talking but chatting online. To each other. When they’re a foot away. The joke takes it so far as to have her text him the question “Where’s the bathroom”, and he briefly utters “down the hall on the right”. They are next to each other. I can’t emphasize enough my disgust of this.
Now before all of you begin to point out the fact that this same technology allows me to carry on a relationship with my boyfriend who lives in Australia, I would like to fully admit that I do appreciate some of the benefits from technology. We are avid users of Skype, Facebook, email and the like. And I give major props to people in the past that did what we are doing without using anything but the postal service. Mad props.
What I am saying is this: when I was growing up, we had one phone in the house. It was a big deal when you or your friend got their own line in their room – it meant you could bypass the parents, talk as long and late as you wanted, and didn’t have to sit in the living room. But let’s stick with the one phone for this scenario: I go home after school to do homework. I’m, say, 14. It’s around 5pm – early for dinner – and realize I have some questions about the math homework. I call David and his mom answers. I ask for David, she asks who is calling, and we proceed to chat for a few minutes.
“David says he’s having a hard time with the math tonight – are you doing ok with it?”
“Actually I was calling to try and get some help from him…”
“Well, I know that he and Luke are working on it together, so maybe all three of you will figure it out!”
“Yeah that would be great. How are you?”
“Oh I’m fine, thank you. David’s dad took the car in today so I didn’t get to the store and we’re going out for dinner instead. Oh, here he is! Good luck!”
“Thank you! Enjoy dinner!”
And that was a typical interaction with a parent via telephone. Because of this, it meant that I had a good rapport with my friends’ parents and that they recognized me on the phone. This led into personal interactions with them when I would go over to their house after school or on the weekend, and they not only knew what was going on in David’s life and my life, but I had a bit of a clue (well, as much as a 14-year-old cares to) about them. And this has served me well to date, especially since many of these families still live in the area and I’ll occasionally run into them at the grocery store or – even weirder – a bar. What I’m saying is that I grew up with a mutual respect for my friends’ parents and siblings, and it involved real, true human interaction. We couldn’t skip the middle man. And this, obviously, also let parents be more nosy. Which can be annoying but quite good.
Say David was the one calling me. Then Luke called me. Then Luke called back. And all these times, my grandma answered the phone. Eventually I would hear her come upstairs and knock on my bedroom door asking me what all the calls were about. School? Personal drama in the life of a teenager? Plans for the weekend? And yeah, we can all get frustrated when our families get too involved, but they really do do it for our own protection. And they had a pretty good handle on my life, which made my friends feel comfortable when they would come over. Do you see the pattern emerging?
Today it’s different. I watch my 18-year-old cousin publicly discuss things that I think are inappropriate; I have (in the past) asked her about her relationship with her friends’ families, of which there was almost none. I see these kids growing up without the community that I had, and I know that those older than me bemoan the fact that it wasn’t the same as when they were kids and all the doors in the neighborhood were unlocked for them to ramble in and out of. So, yes, it’s a generational thing. And it’s probably a fact that I’ve always been quite close to and open with my family. Call me old. But when I hear people saying that sending an email takes too long and they’ll just send annoying little texts, or when I get a phone call asking where I am when I am only 2 minutes late, or when someone won’t make plans with me at a definite time and instead say “I’ll call you when….”, or when people cannot focus on a personal conversation with someone or live in the moment because they’re too busy checking facebook or texting someone, I feel like I’m in the right to get a bit offended and/or annoyed.
I know I can’t do anything to change the pace at which technology is moving, and I know that newer developments will come along and piss someone else off. But I also know that it shouldn’t take 3+ announcements in a movie theatre to remind people to turn off their phones, and you should not feel guilty if you don’t respond to a text instantly. Just because the technology exists to do just that, doesn’t mean that you have to be a slave to it.
So try it for a day. Leave your phone at home and go for a walk, or make plans with someone where you set a time and place and both agree that you’ll stick around for a few minutes if someone is a bit late. Don’t answer that text as soon as your phone flashes, but finish the conversation you are having with the person next to you. Remember what it’s like to socialize without the use of technology. Read a book.
And now I will post this to my blog for millions of people from all over the globe to read if they are so interested. Such is the way of the world.
Robot love and mechanical hugs,