The Great Disconnect
By Jennifer E. Jones
My friends and I are weird. We know this, but it comes as a surprise to others.
We do lots of strange things together. We dance when there’s no music. We discuss the various wonders of the authentic Mexican tortilla. I joke with them about the student loans they can look forward to after grad school. They berate me for not watching Grey’s Anatomy (I’m sorry, but it’s Melrose Place in scrubs).
One of the strangest things that we do is sit together with our laptops and chat with each other online.
I know. How "Generation Y" are we?
Sharing the same wireless connection, we’ll send silly quips back and forth. Well, three of us engage in this high-tech tomfoolery. The fourth member of our mod quad just looks at us like we’ve lost our minds. And he’s probably right.
I didn’t used to be like this. Working for a Web site, obviously we have lots of fun gadgets around here that they let us use to do our jobs. I don’t even know how to use most of this stuff. But the laptop is simple enough, and I certainly enjoy hanging out in coffee shops and typing away at my next great idea. But as I sit in a sea of other half-eaten Apples and techies in search of free Wi-Fi, I can’t help but feel like I’ve joined some sort of cult.
We have computers plugged into the Internet at the highest speeds known to man. We can check our email from our Blackberries, listen to a New Zealand pastor’s sermon on podcast from our living room, and watch last night’s episode of The Bachelor on our iPods. That video of your cat doing karate can be seen by millions if you post it on YouTube.
Even our cell phones got complicated. With the Bluetoothes and other hands-free devices, people have all new ways of not paying attention to the road… as if kids and backseat drivers weren’t enough.
It's not like I have technophobia, but I wonder, in this digital, “reach-out-and-touch-your-mouse” age, how many of us are really connecting with one another?
Come on. Remember when PDA stood for “public display of affection”? How about going to the mailbox with anticipation because it could be a love letter from your sweetie or cookies from Grandma? Now you can watch Grandma make her cookies via her Web cam, and you save text messages from your significant other that read: “LuvU”.
TIME Magazine recently featured the top inventions, and a few in particular were quite disturbing. Scientists have perfected robotic dogs that will play with your child and respond to your voice. There are the life-size robots that can help you perform tasks around the office.
As if that doesn’t make you smell hints of the Apocalypse in the air, check out "The Hug Shirt", made by CuteCircuit. It’s a shirt that hugs you. Someone sends a message to your cell phone, and the cell phone sends a command to your shirt to simulate the sensation of someone hugging you.
Someone, hold the phone. Better yet, rip it out of the socket.
Where did we go? Why is it so strange to see two people in a coffee shop talking instead of checking their stock quotes online? Why are people getting killed for PlayStations? Somewhere in all this technology, we’ve lost our way, and we’ve let the precious art of face-to-face conversation die in our hands.
I am as guilty as anyone else. I know the email addresses of all my friends, yet I still don’t know the name of my next door neighbor. I’m flabbergasted when I hear news that didn’t come from an email blast or a MySpace bulletin (i.e., “He’s dating who? Of course, I didn’t know. Why didn’t anyone IM me?”)
I can think of only one logical solution to this conundrum: unplug. Take one weekend and disconnect from every technological method of communication. Turn off the stereo and pull out your guitar. Hang up the phone and pay your friend a personal visit. Purposely lose your remote and grab a good book. The city that you live in has a wealth of hidden history and mystery. Grab your spouse and go on an exploration.
Each generation that comes along is more tech-savvy than the last, and we need to reclaim what it means to talk and listen before we shelve the ability to communicate altogether.
Do it. Disconnect right now. And if you’re at your local Starbucks and you see four young adults -- three of whom are on laptops -- do us a favor. Yank out our computer cords and remind us to live our lives.
Got comments? Drop me a line.
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