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Twitter Me Stupid

Don't kid yourself or your kids: texting isn't talking; an email is not an embrace; Facebook isn't face to face; and families don't bond on phones.

By Kevin Somers
Published May 29, 2009

Because there's instant access to info, family, foe, or friend, people are supposedly better off in recent decades. Society has thrown its arms around electronic devices like they're Jesus or jewelery, but it's not all milk and money in Blackberry Land.

Undoubtedly, communication is critical to success, but too much of anything is unhealthy and, ultimately, unsuccessful.

I'm not against technological advances. They've been with us since day one, after all. The first caveman with a spear, for example, would have experienced improved hunting, defence, and expansion. As a result, he was more attractive to the caveladies: success! His envious, covetous caveneighbour then set out to make a better weapon.

That imperative has led to the nuclear bomb, however. Knowing when to say, "When," is a problem with electronic gadgets, too.

Never Alone, Never Together

People are linked, but each of us is a singular entity. It's poetic and true: I am the only one of me and you're the only one of you. I'm an island and you're an island, too. An island, by its virtue, stands alone.

A fixed-link, even if it's virtual or wireless, only diminishes the character, quality, and viability of an island. Thanks to portable, personal electronics, people are never really alone any more and it's counter-productive.

Being alone in a vehicle, for example, has been entirely changed by technology. Until recently, traveling meant isolation: a perfect place to plot or ponder, but gadgets have changed that. The stresses of home and office are suddenly travel companions and driving is impaired, as is life. A walk in the woods suffers the same shame.

Humans have adapted, successfully until now, spending huge amounts of time hiding, hunting, or working silently with time to think. To solve, absolve, resolve, and improve, one requires time uninterrupted, alone with one's thoughts, thinking things through thoughtfully.

Cavemen undoubtedly would have eventually killed a blabbermouth, focus-deficient, chronically-texting idiot to save the tribe.

Gadgets easily, dangerously, take us from the moment, where life is lived and learned. I know a father who spends most of his time with his children reading or texting from a Blackberry. He thinks it's productive. However, a chance to appreciate, sooth, or bond to his children is squandered on a gizmo.

Dad makes a lot of money, so ostensibly he's successful, but the poor fool doesn't know the price of distraction. He will.

Islands though we may be, there's a human craving - a need - to communicate, but it has to be meaningful. Don't kid yourself or your kids: texting isn't talking; an email is not an embrace; Facebook isn't face to face; and families don't bond on phones.

Vanity Vehicles

Ironically, the demise of genuine connection has been aided and abetted by the explosion of "communication devices." It's also been astonishing how quickly the communication gadgets have morphed into vanity vehicles. Everyone suddenly considers everything they do, say, or think worth sharing with everybody.

Along with smaller families and more indulged children, constant blogging, posting, texting, and twittering has resulted in a society of self-obsessed narcissists. "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement" is a recently released book designed to explain and help non-narcissists cope with the disaster.

It's true that one learns best when one learns to shut up, listen, and think, but sadly, that's no longer fashionable. Deference for experience and knowledge isn't chic, anymore, either. The growing trend is to forgo learning and express at will.

As with fast food and McMansions, quality of communication has been forsaken for convenience and gluttony. The Information Age is something to celebrate, certainly, but be mindful of hangovers and after affects. Faith in false profits, like Bernie Madoff's, and false prophets, like Apples and Blackberries, has discernible drawbacks.

We worship technology and self-expression at our own peril. Rome is burning while Nero Twitters. rm brnz nro twtrs. ttfn.

Kevin Somers is a Hamilton writer.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 29, 2009 at 10:17:25

Yours was only 80 characters so you win. Ryan is upvoted :) Sorry bored and silly. Need more internets!

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2009 at 11:44:45

This article should be printed off and sent home tonight from school with every student in the city, to the attention of their parents.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2009 at 15:11:51

"Cavemen undoubtedly would have eventually killed a blabbermouth, focus-deficient, chronically-texting idiot to save the tribe." Nice.

I find myself a bit conflicted: I don't want to join Facebook, but I have since it lets me communicate more with teenagers I work with. Then, of course, it affects how I communicate with everyone. Cell phones are something I still won't own, but I'm sure I'll eventually have to.

Technology aside, I personally make an effort to get people together - especially of ages that wouldn't normally think of it - a couple in their twenties and couple in their fifties, or a party with everyone from 15 to 85 invited. I think we'v lost a lot of that.

I find often that acquaintances will be surprised if they're invited over to our house instead of to go out for lunch - no matter their age, financial status, or where they live. But I think there's value in doing that - even if there's a dirty dish or two in my sink and my windows aren't streak-free. (Or, if my sink is completely full of dishes).

To me, that gives some honesty back to personal interactions instead of keeping our homes as only our own.. and from what I understand, we've been shifting back this way culturally for a while anyways instead of just nesting/cocooning/etc.

Bit of a tangent, but those for me are strategies that move me beyond vital, but limited small-talk communication and into a more real and vital level.

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By Yakety Fax (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2009 at 16:30:17

Yes, but so, what?

Human existence, civilization, everything we consider culture is all about communication. Civlization begins with stories told around the campfires, advances with drawings on the cave walls and as accompanied by the beat of a stick on a stretched animal skin and/or a plucked or bowed string, is documented on more elaborate artwork on tomb walls, clay tablets, scrolls hidden away in desert caves. What were they trying to tell each other, and us?

The industrial revolution begins with the invention of moveable type. It is not an accident that industry so thoroughly focused around the automobile and its assorted accessories, such as homes in the suburbs. Transportation is a slower, more direct and expensive form of communication. And it's no accident that the industrial age has given way to the information age. This is what we do. This is what it means to be human. Art, education, money: they are all communication.

Yes, different forms of communication each have their advantages and problems. It is good to understand the strengths and weaknesses of various media to participate in human life. We suffer an embarrassment of riches and are spoiled by that, but this is not the end of civilization. Just the opposite. Twitter isn't travel or face-time but it may be a good way to arrange a bed and a hot meal when you get where you're going.

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