While at the movies recently I saw a guy in his early 20’s stepping out of the theatre and into the lobby to take a phone call. It was then that I had this realization: we’ve lost something. We made a decision with out realizing it. We bought into an idea with out ever considering whether or not it was a good idea.
That first idea that we’ve bought is that people have the right to contact us around the clock. Sneaking around on the coat tails of this idea is the fear that we have an obligation to be contactable around the clock. And hiding in the hair of that idea, like a lice infestation, is the idea that people actually care what we’re up, to 24-7.
But I think that this is the worst of it.
The worst of it is that there seems to be this idea that all we are is social beings. I don’t have any trouble with the claim that we are social beings. But there is a universe of difference between the claim “we are social beings” and “all we are is social beings.”
Perhaps I’m being paranoid and oversensetive. I can’t give any real rational evidence. For what I’m trying to say here.
Here’s what I am sure of: I keep thinking about the Jeff Goldbloom character in Jurassic Park, when he essentially says, “We spend too much time wondering if we can do something and not enough time wondering if we should do something.”
And I’m also sure, that we’ve created an entire society of people at the center of these webs of connections to other people. Our spider webs transmit these instant sound bites and pieces of trivia. I know that we’ve lost the art of being in silence. I know the practice of percolating things is as dated as the idea of a coffee percolator itself; I know that processing information, chewing it over, and sharing wisdom (rather than information) is becoming a lost art. I’m confident that we’re actually shutting each other out of our consciousness even when we’re in public spaces. Have you noticed how people walk through crowded areas, discussing the most intimate things, as if the people around them don’t even exist?
What’s harder for me to put into words, the thing that maybe is just my emotional nature running amuck, is the idea that this is all leading to a devalue of ourselves and the people around us. We’ve turned each other into jukeboxes. We’ve lost track of the parts of ourselves that we only find in solitude and silence.
And we’ve traded this in for a shadow of community and for a sad substitute for being connected. Increasingly, these spider webs we’ve trapped ourselves in are one-sided, cheap, and easy illusions.
I write all this with the awareness of the hypocrisy implied in all this. I am, after all publishing this to my blog. I’ll probably post a link to it on my facebook page. But the thing is, I’m not saying that these things are bad: it’s not a bad thing to have a cell phone, to twitter, or to have a my space page. I am saying it is a bad thing, though, if these technologies have us.