Friday, January 13, 2012

Is conversation becoming extinct?

     I was in Wal Mart the other day when I saw a young boy furiously texting away with his thumbs. I remember thinking at the time that wasn’t exactly what God had in mind when he created such an opposable digit. A few moments later, I noticed another boy walked up to this young man, also texting on his cell phone and asked, “You get my text?” The young man nodded without looking up from his phone and said, “Yeah, I’m texting you back.”

     Now someone please explain to me the purpose of that conversation. And why in the hell couldn’t these two boys just speak face-to-face to each other. Has the art of conversation been reduced to the incomprehensible shorthand one finds in a text? Are we so afraid to look another person in the eye that we have to hide behind technology in order to find our voice? The greatest leaders the world has ever known were masters of public speaking, but I’m sure if they had been given cell phones as a teenager they would never have left the safety of their living rooms. I have neighbors who live within fifty feet of each other’s front door and choose to Skype each other rather than stick their heads out of their windows and have a non-technologically based interaction. And when they do “talk” to each other, the conversation doesn’t follow the long observed norms of the weather, the family, or the dog’s recent confrontation with an enraged squirrel. No, they want to compare the newest apps for their smart phones, or debate the necessity of living in a tent for two weeks outside the local Apple store in order to be able to claim the title of “first phone sold.”

     Do we really need all of this technology and is it taking away from the fundamentals of being human? Teenagers are closer to the phones than their parents. Grown human beings spend more time locked away in their bedrooms surfing the net than interacting with their families. Everyday we are inundated with emails, texts, tweets, Google alerts, instant messages, cell phone calls, and video conferencing. How much more can our brains take before we turn into the technology we have placed above our family pet? I don’t think a man walking with an antenna out of his ear that connects to WiFi and has a hard drive capable of downloading Cleveland is what Darwin had in mind for us.

     When will we learn to put our humanity first and technology second, because we are not the emotionally bereft computers we so solemnly worship. Our emotions, our words, our interactions with others are what makes us unique as a species, and if we continue down this road we will be no more emotionally advanced than the rocks on the side of that road. So take that cell phone out of your ear, disconnect from the Internet, and grab your loved ones. Pretend you are a family unit, and do something that families have done together for decades before the invasion of all our technology. Go watch television.

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