Monday, October 22, 2012

Disconnected in a Connected World

No one talks to me anymore. It’s not that I’m not a good conversationalist. I just never get the chance to show that off. If I’m in a public place, no one strikes up a conversation---they’re too busy looking at their device, their I-Phones or Blackberries. Why would anyone want to just talk about the weather when they can get the weather forecast for anywhere in the world, with video if they want, right in the palm of their hand?
“Hey some weather we’re having, huh?”
Stranger does a quick search with his device.
“Not really, the weather is far more weird in Micronesia right now. Here, take a look.”
I once started talking to a guy at a gas station only to realize after a few minutes that he was wearing one of those ear pieces and was on the phone and not listening to a word I said. Who needs to be that connected? Why not just get that thing surgically implanted so you won’t have to go around wearing one on your ear like some kind of alien!
Living in the digital age has made people more connected with each other than at any other time in history. But in the process, some have turned into digital zombies, walking around transfixed, mesmerized and captivated by the screens in their hands or on their desks.
People’s screens seem to hold more fascination that people themselves. And who can blame them, what’s in that I-Phone is far more interesting and endless than what’s in the average person.
And in the rare times when you’re actually talking with someone, you know your end of the conversation isn’t going well when they start stealing furtive glances at their screens while you’re talking. You want to yell, “Hey, look at me, I’m talking here!”
Thanks to Facebook, I know the minutest details of the daily lives of people I hardly know. I know more things about everybody than anyone would ever talk about in person. We post the goings-on of our daily lives as if it’s breaking news. Pat is cleaning the house; Brandon’s having do-nuts for breakfast; and Ken wants you to keep Zsa Zsa Gabor in your prayers as she tries to recover from hip surgery and possible stroke. Zsa Zsa’s still alive? Now that’s news.
Thanks to Facebook, the social site that keeps us constantly connected with everyone, I feel like the most boring human in cyber space. Going there just reminds me of how unexciting a life I really lead. Everyone’s life seems more interesting than mine on Facebook. Jay’s in Warsaw on business. Wendy’s coming back from France. Chris is hiking in the mountains of Idaho. Paul is home doing nothing except living vicariously through his Facebook connections.  
And wherever I go, I hear beeps, chimes, rings, buzzes, and musical notes that come from people’s devices like a ladies pocketbook or a guy’s pants pocket. What’s the proper etiquette here? Stop the major point you were making about world peace so he can answer his phone?
“Want to get that,” I ask politely.
“No, it’s just a text message. I’ll look at it later in the middle of our conversation.”
Another bell goes off.
“Want to get that,” I ask politely.
“No, it’s an e-mail that I’ll respond to when I lose interest in what you’re saying.”
Some people have assigned musical notes, clips from songs, noises, and sound effects to individual callers like members of their family. I was with a friend when his phone started barking like a dog.
“What’s that,” I asked laughing.
“I got to get this, it’s my wife calling.”
I guess there might be some benefits to living in this digital age after all.

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