After the alarm radio goes off on some random station, my husband wakes up, rolls half-way out of bed, only to grab and start scrolling over his bedside Blackberry for messages. Even before showering and dressing, he heads for The Oracle of Knowledge aka our computer. This happens all before acknowledging anyone else exists in the house.
After checking his emails to see if the world is coming to an end, he realizes the world will still survive for a few more minutes and confidently showers and gets ready. In the meantime, my 24-year-old daughter is texting my cell phone from her bedroom down the hall to see what there is for breakfast. She has even gone as far as to insist I get her 4-year-old sister a cell phone so she can always stay connected to us. That’s just what I’d need, another child texting me for a snack.
When we use our so-called connective devices, are we really connecting? Are we losing our humanity by choosing to text our messages instead of calling on a phone or get this – actually meeting someone face to face? I know, some of you out there are already fearful and shivering at the thought.
I do have to say, I’m almost as guilty as the rest of my family in my gadgetry use. I check my cell phone for messages more times than I can count. I check my emails at least 6 times a day for fear I’d miss some revelation. I can’t help myself when I check the daily weather coverage at Weather.com and then compare it to the local forecast of YNN. But in the mornings, I don’t feel the need to commune with a cold, lifeless device and as I lay my head on my pillow at night, it’s not done with thoughts of my iPod or Blackberry by my side.
The problem exists that I’m the only one in my family that feels like something is missing. Sure, I’m just as pleased as the next person when I don’t have to stop at a pay phone or even stop for directions. I’m also happy that I don’t have to carry a dozen CD’s just to listen to three hours of my favorite music. Yet, I’m just having a hard time accepting that many of these devices are replacing our family interaction.
I miss the days when people met in person to catch up on everything happening in our lives. The times when secrets were whispered for our ears only and not shared on a blog. Now I have to read my Facebook page, follow Twitter or MySpace, and everything in between just to be satisfied my best friend is doing well.
I remember days when kids checked in with their parents with a phone call. Now it’s a text message, which makes me wonder: Is it really my daughter sending that message or is it her creepy date holding her hostage? Call me paranoid, but it is a possibility.
There is a lot to be said about the power of body language. Sometimes that non-verbal exchange between friends or even enemies can make all the difference in the world.
Not everyone is honest and open when they send an email or text. How many times have you ever heard a person say “nothing is wrong” when you know something actually is? Sometimes that simple smile from a loved one can hold more weight than any words that could ever possibly be spoken or sent in a text message. Without the nuances of body language, how can we be certain the meanings behind the words written are truly genuine?
I wouldn’t be surprised if our society has become content with being oblivious about other people’s thoughts and real feelings. We somehow instilled in our young adults an over-active belief of self-worth by insisting they need their own cell phone, TV, and computers. Heaven forbid if they had to share phone time on a land line or watch a show they didn’t particularly care for. The interaction and accommodating restraint would be too much of a burden.
Maybe it’s the fear of conflict that has the members of my household fleeing to the opposite corners of the house. This is not to imply my house is any sort of war zone, it could just be perceived as one.
We all know how much effort and strength it takes for sharing and compromise. It’s common knowledge that prior to that cup of coffee in the morning, gracious words can be excruciating. Even harder is the case where you should kiss someone goodnight after not agreeing earlier with their actions. That would clearly take an act of forgiveness and courage. So why not hide behind our gadgetry to mask our true feelings?
All these missed opportunities of socialization within my own household puts me slightly in a panic. I fear my family will soon lose all their skills of relating to others and will certainly be destined as adults to become hermits in some dank and dark, windowless basement apartment.
As their socialization crumbles, I could see them ordering groceries online instead of going to the grocery store, always sending out for take-out instead of going to a restaurant, and being content to listen to their mp3 players instead of going to concerts.
Clearly this could lead our new awkward, socially-lacking generation down a path to living like an agoraphobic. Imagine a world where people stop touching or have ceased to be motivated to come in physical contact with each other. Imagine how it would feel when someone is not there to embrace you when you are saddened or when you have made them proud. Don’t worry, they could always send you that cold flat message from their latest keyboard.
I have a few suggestions that I think will help save mankind. The next time you get the urge to put your thumbs into an acrobatic frenzy in a text message, pause. Think how nice it would be to actually hear the voice of the ones you love. Remember they will not be here on earth forever.
Before you lay your head down at night, leave your cell phone in the living room. Hang up your iPod plugs and put on some mood music in you iPod station that you both can share. Designate nights or hours where all electronic devices are turned off. Talk and laugh together. You’d be surprised at the results and may just start a whole new revolution – really connecting.