Sunday, November 11, 2012

I was taught that the best form of communication was through eye contact. Things have changed dramatically. No one even looks at each other. They design cars with accessory ports that used to be the cigarette lighter all over the automobile so that each passenger can power the device they are staring at to just get through the ride. No one talks. As soon as they are of age to drive, they don’t even travel together, they have their own car.
At home family members could be in the same room but they don’t speak. They text or say stuff on Facebook. We are so connected with all kinds of media communication that we are totally disconnected. I was in an elevator with 4 girls that knew each other. No one looked up. No one made eye contact. No one spoke. I interrupted them when I dared to speak. They were all texting each other because I was told that it was a habit and was “easier.”
Once upon a time if you saw someone talking out loud while walking you would think they were insane. Not anymore, now 90% of American adults own cell phones. Whether talking or texting it seems that 90% of the time they are using them. These days the minute that people are alone, at a stop sign, at the checkout counter in a supermarket, they panic and reach for their cell phone.
MIT Psychologist, Sherry Turkle says that our high speed connections have made us more disconnected than ever. At breakfast even when you can get the family together, you will find every member of the family texting. Even at funerals people are rudely texting. The cover of the New Yorker Magazine said it all. You see the family in a beautiful tropical paradise texting.
Her book,” Alone Together“, explores the question Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. It is about how she surveyed hundreds of people about their plugged in lives. Her conclusion is that we have lost the art of conversation. An 18 year old boy always talked about how he always preferred to text rather than talk. The problem with talking is that it is in real time and you can’t always control what you are going to say.
My problem with all this writing is that it is pure evidence of what you have said , so think carefully before you write something you might regret later. These days texting is seen as a skill. In New York recently there was The U.S. National Texting Championship Competition as individuals were in competition for the title. On average 18 to 24 year old's send and receive a whopping 3,200 text messages per month according to the Pew Research Center.
Is it too strong to call it an addiction? We can’t take our eyes off the things when we should. YouTube is full of videos of people walking with confidence staring and walking with their cell phones in their hands walking into fountains at Malls, or walking off a train platform falling into the tracks. Around the country last year there were over a thousand visits to the hospital for just injuries gotten from just walking and texting.
Where would we be if we did not have these precious little devices? If we gave up the I Pad and the Smart Phone and the Blackberry ? What would exactly happen? Could we even function ? It turns out that these are not silly questions. Law makers are passing laws to make you a criminal if you text and drive a vehicle. Researchers at the University of Maryland Discovered some interesting facts on the subject.
Upon their devices taken away from them, it turned out to be the most horrible experience of their lives according to what they self reported to the researchers. The researchers asked students around the world to go without their cell phones for a mere 24 hours and the psychological impact was significant. 70% of them quit the experiment saying that they simply couldn’t do it. Aren’t you even expected to sleep for 8 of the 24 hours? So, in only 16 hours, they were quitters.
They felt a tremendous amount of boredom. They felt emotionally detached from the rest of the world. We become obsessive continually checking from someone we love or just seeing what is going on in Facebook or checking e-mails. Nicholas Carr wrote the book called The Shallows that is about “What the Internet is doing to our brains.” He writes about why these devises are our favorite vices.
People have a primitive instinct to want to gather information. They want to know everything that is going on around them. You can see how that would be helpful in a simpler society where all you needed to know was as far as you can see like in cave men times. The problem now is that we are in a world where we have access to limitless amounts of information. We are still trying to grasp all the information we can and it is killing us. We are exhausted from the access to everything and anything.
We can’t stop this impulsive checking. Think how hard it will be for the generation that doesn’t know anything else. There are babies that are given computer tablets instead of books or toys and with their tiny fingers only know how to navigate through pages on the device just by pointing and opening and closing their fists. They can’t change a page as in a book and their journey never ends as in a story that finally says The End. No closure no final satisfaction that you have arrived or accomplished something.
We are so busy searching that we have already lost the comforting times of the quieter calmer moments where we engage in reflection or introspection ,contemplation or just plain calm. We were told that TV would rot our brains. Well we only saw that when we came home or finally sat down in front of a television. Not any more, we can get all kinds of video in the palm of our hands now anywhere we go.
Now half of all adult cell phone owners use their mobile devices while watching television.

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