Wednesday, February 13, 2008


(Title from the song by Flock of Seagulls [or was it flock of haircuts?])

My wife and I recently had a thirteen year old girl visit us and had chance to consider this modern age we live in. I'm 36, but I suddenly feel like my parents saying, "When I was a kid, I had to wait all day to find out if my friend was home!!! AND WE LIKED IT!"

I've often considered the impact the cell phone has had on our society. But this really brought other aspects home.

Firstly, I believe that lacking in this gotta-have-it-now world is true communication and even more, thought and consideration. In the spate of a couple hours this young girl made up with a "boyfriend" (consider she was recently "in love" with a different guy), found out that he was "seeing" someone else, dumped him and was considering another boy for romance. All this from a bunch of high-speed text messages sent over a cell phone. I then considered just how often my wife and I have miscommunicated through that same medium and other instant-communication methods. (Not even considering the potential danger one is in when texting on the road, bathroom, movie theater, or the line at Starbucks... YES Miss-triple-carmel-mocha-with-a-squirt-of-peppermint I'm talking about YOU.)

With all these ways and devices to communicate instantly, continuously and throughly, there's very little actual communication going on. These devices seem only to means to display our own narcissistic tendencies and talk about ourselves to anyone who'll listen. (Can you say BLOG!? Yes, I recognize the irony...)

I tried to express this thought to the girl, but of course she didn't hear what I was saying cause she was texting some poor fool "i <3 u".

Secondly, ever notice how blog comments can often turn into wars? People seem to be filled with bravado behind a keyboard. The same girl was recently the target of some very nasty messages on Myspace. People who probably wouldn't have the guts in person can say just about anything in the semi-anonymity of the blog-youtube-text-o-sphere. These means and devices are yet only props for us to display our further depravity. This brings me to my final observation.

Perhaps most importantly, these things cause us to lose sight of what's really important. Time. Apart from the just general waste of time texting silly messages to people you barely know and the like, there's the whole issue of not being able to think about what one says before you hit SEND. Not 20 years ago you couldn't be bothered on the road with the incessant blaring of your previously-favorite-song demanding that you answer the call from the person who you really don't need to talk to while changing lanes. (Have you ever noticed how hard it is NOT to answer?)

Time. To think about what is going on before responding. When my wife and I argue, often the only thing that enables us to work it out is simply the passage of time in which one is able to think the issues over. With these instant-communication devices, there doesn't need to be time to think, in fact, these things demand instant decisions!

Time. At thirteen years old the concepts of romantic love, truth, value, importance, and even danger are skewed and not fully formed. It never occurs to these kids that saying things in a text message, or Internet post can get serious trouble... and even if and when it does the depth of the trouble isn't apparent to them. Consider that the TV show "To Catch a Predator" is on all the time... so many people looking to satisfy their basest urges with all these instant-messaging children.

I got my first computer at 14 and began using BBS systems almost immediately. It never occurred to me then that there might be people looking to take advantage of me, and perhaps with the instantaneous and widespread nature of today's communication its much easier to find victims and take advantage of them.

I don't know what the solutions are, or where this is all headed, however, I note that for now that the direction is negative and it seems these things are yet one more means for the world to infiltrate the forming minds of children and fool them into thinking they're somehow grown ups.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this stuff. Please comment.

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