We live in an age of “instant” communication through iPhones, computers, texting, Tweeting, and Facebook, among other venues. Some people feel the need to be in constant “communication” with the world through cell phones, which they keep attached to their ears at all times, almost like robotic appendages. It seems ironic to me that in a world that is becoming overpopulated, noisier, and more mechanized on a daily basis, the same world seems to be getting more impersonal and lonelier all the time.
We suppose that a simple text message of, “Hi. I’m in frozen foods at the Piggly Wiggly” is worth sending (in whatever version of trimmed spelling) only because there is that opening for some kind of response, albeit as mundane as the message was. I’m not sure if this addiction to messaging creates the illusion of some level of badly needed intimacy, but it can also separate us further from the very world with which we want to feel in touch. Think of all those folks on streets, trains, in restaurants, theaters, even in cars, who are absolutely oblivious to what surrounds them, because they are consumed by those little cellphones, convinced that texting or chatting is of the greatest import. My question is “why?” What kind of emptiness is somehow filled by that prosaic activity that we imagine to be almost as significant as our own heartbeats?
We have, as a society, come to believe that technology is the answer to all our problems. I realize that my assertion makes me look like a hopelessly outdated codger whose idea of fun might be a Saturday night taffy pull and square dance at the old barn and whose idea of advanced technology is a Model T Ford. In fact, I applaud modern advances that in some ways (i.e. in medicine) have made life safer and more enjoyable for most of us. My contention, however, isn’t with machines but rather with the people who have practically become cyborgs using the machines.
I love to see people take vacations in nature at lakes, in cabins, in forests, at campgrounds, and at the seashore, where computers and cellphones are not the center of attention. Nature has a miraculous way of helping us to heal and to remember what is truly important beyond electrical devices, through fresh air and being together with other people (in person) without dependency upon the stunted, artificial language of text messaging, or the hypnotic embrace of TV. The problem I see is that we are not really in control of technology as much as technology is in control of us. We are numbed by a constant barrage of television commercials every ten minutes practically begging us to try new drugs and to watch thousands of news items from around the world in quantities and frequency that we can never hope to process emotionally, let alone intellectually. In that way we too are becoming machines with reduced intimate emotions in order to survive the onslaught of messages that bombard us with almost no break.
I’m aware too that the comic irony of my essay is that I’m posting it on my blog and on Facebook, media supported by technology. In that way, maybe the final joke’s on me. JB