Have you noticed that conversation seems to be on the wane? It’s being replaced by flying fingers on Blackberries and other such communication devices. Teenagers, young adults, even kids are ditching verbalization for texting, choosing instead to let their fingers do the talking – even when their target audience is a mere three feet away.
Why am I surprised by this? I shouldn’t be, I suppose. Every time some new and improved method of doing anything is introduced and, thereby, rendering the traditional method of whatever it’s replacing as dilapidated, useless, and obsolete, the new is seized as though one’s very life depends upon achieving proficiency. And, frankly, this is taking some getting used to. Texting can be convenient and allow conversation when speaking aloud is unacceptable, but texters have reached the point of being downright rude.
Not long ago, we were guests for a weekend wedding. The rehearsal dinner the night before the big day was spent with a lot of folks’ heads bowed. Oh, no the bowed heads were not to get in touch with the Almighty. In fact, if a head was bowed, it indicated that person had figuratively left the event since they were deeply engrossed in a text session. They ignored everything and everyone even texting between bites.
If you’re lucky, a texter will look up long enough to tell the wait staff what they’d like to drink, but verbally placing an order is the closest to having a face-to-face conversation with a Texter – and that’s probably only long enough to share with a non-Texter what someone just texted to them.
I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised at this shift in communication; Americans are obsessed with being entertained and texting is, after all, a form of entertainment. We think we have to be bombarded with information, music, games, political commentary, movies, and whatever else you can think of that can be transmitted over the internet, telephone lines, via satellite or whatever other mode of communication man has wrought upon society. Our lives have become saturated with a non-stop flow from at least one source of entertainment constantly.
We listen to something while we sleep, when we awaken, while we’re en route to school, work or another destination. While at work or school, folks are working on a project on the computer and listening to something – anything – on an earpiece or headphone. They are encased and insulated in their own little world allowing in only that to which they wish to subject themselves, forgetting the lessons of childhood about how to relate to others, neglecting the social mores that will get them beyond the cubicle and into the community.
This attitude of “it’s all about me” is manifested in the whole texting phenomenon and it’s slowly sucking the life out of our communities. We’ve become infested with a rash of textaholics – so wrapped up in whatever flashes at them from somewhere else that they cannot function in a face-to-face situation. They are so consumed with what they want, what they do, and controlling their environment through isolation that they do not recognize they’ve become social boors. They don’t get involved in groups or organizations. They didn’t know about them because they didn’t stop texting long enough to hear someone talking about them. They miss some of life’s most precious opportunities because they’re too busy being buried in their phones and their attitudes toward others reflect that selfishness.
We don’t stop to consider how our attitudes affect those around us something like a virus infecting - for good or bad - every situation, collaboration, team, partnership, marriage, or group in which we are involved. When you spend every waking moment in conversation with someone else via cyberspace, how can you possibly be attending to the moment where you are?
It’s become an obsession this texting thing. The younger members of our family drive us nuts with it. We cannot even have a family get together without them texting whomever. They may be present, but they are not there; they are with whomever they’re texting.
(Heavy sigh) I just hope they decide to turn off their phones long enough to get to know the other members of the family before somebody’s gone.
Helen Person is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.