Friday, October 1, 2010

Is Texting Mightier Than The Sword?

“What is so cool is that we are all connected!” I heard this effusive comment in the grocery store, spoken by a man to the display of melons. Of couse, when he turned, I realized he had a phone dangling from his ear.

I confess to have been annoyed by this; I wanted to ask, “connected to what?” Sometimes, it seems to me that what we are truly connected with is our technological toys. I also sometimes think that our technology takes us for a walk, and not the other way around.

When my family was driving home from some event, recently, we were stopped at an intersection. My husband, who was driving, was about to make a right-hand turn when, from out of nowhere, a man on a bicycle shot off the sidewalk in front of the car, texting, while riding his bicycle. Texting! It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen in my life. Both of the man's hands were on the handlebars, somehow balancing his phone, open to it’s qwerty pad, and his thumbs were furiously flying.

My husband slammed on the brakes, and the guy on the bicycle responded by falling off of his bike in the crosswalk in front of us, dropping the phone.

Without looking to the right or the left, the fellow got up, scooped up the phone and picked up the bike, remounted it, and rode on, continuing to text. We had saved him from being road kill, and he didn’t even look our way.

This sounds like a classic entry for the annual Darwin Awards. And I ask, what was that all for? I would hazard the guess that it was not for some pithy discourse.

Because our technology allows us to, we blather. On and on we blather, whether it is by voice or by thumb, on and on we digitally promote the sound of our voice. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t call this conversation. Most of the single-side of conversations I hear are not noteworthy. Many are people yelling at each other, pretending that there is no audience to their drama. A woman actually snapped at me, on day in the grocery checkout line, “mind your own business” when I turned, startled at being barked at from behind. Groups of people walk in packs together, but are they talking to each other? No. Texting or tweeting others with cutesy one-liners about what they are doing right now. Couples in internet cafés, both parties with laptops open, not speaking to one another.

What I observe is that people, in their desire to be connected, are dividing themselves from a consciousness of what is going on around them. 

The loudness of all the blather is deafening.

The silence, in the absence of substantial real time discourse, is equally disquieting.

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