Technology, like every convenience introduced into our lives, is a tool. In itself, it is neither good nor bad, but in our hands merely amplifies these tendencies that already exist inside of us. There are very few things to do with the modern world that I have taken a personal stand on, despite my deep-seated belief that the singularity will come into being, SkyNet will nuke the Earth, and the cylons will take over. You know, I like watching TV on Netflix, I find my iPad useful, and Spotify is my best friend– not to mention the fact that I am in the process of blogging on WordPress.
Texting, however, is one of those few things.
Don’t get me wrong; I love texting. It makes my life easier and it allows me to circumvent my fear of actually talking to real, live people on the phone. Well, texting and Seamless. I’m eternally grateful that I never again have to attempt to pronounce foreign dishes or jockey with my daughter to be heard over her shrill babbling.
And yet, when used in precisely the wrong way, I can’t think of a more selfish way to communicate.
I feel somewhat disappointed with myself because, as of late, I have compromised this one stand on my usage of technology. I have entered into very lengthy, drawn-out texting conversations and they have had exactly the effect on me that I imagined they would. I don’t have any desire to pass judgment on anyone else. This is merely one of the things that I believe in and would like to do better in upholding in the future.
I believe in focusing completely on the person or task at hand. If something in my life is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. If someone in my life is worth speaking to, they’re worth speaking to properly. If I care about you at all, I care about you enough to give you my full, undivided attention. With texting, even if I am not texting at the moment, I find myself going about my day entirely distracted. Someone may or may not text me at any moment, but that’s not really the point.
The point is that I’ve adopted an attitude of multi-tasking and once I start operating in that way, I can’t just shut it down on command. It becomes the way that I view everything and everyone. I become uncomfortably aware of the opportunity cost of every choice. I could be talking to you, or I could also be knitting. Or reading a book. Or writing. Or painting. Or texting. I start to think that I really can do both (or all six) simultaneously and then the quality of every experience in my life quickly degenerates, wasting away into little soundbites of inattention.
There’s no other form of communication where it is so acceptable to simply exit and enter the conversation at will, leaving when you bore slightly, or coming back when you think of a good joke. Imagine how conversations like this would go in person.
“Hey, so today I learned something really interesting about myself.”
“So my guinea pig died, my step-mother is pregnant, and I’ve been evicted.”
“But on the other hand, a panda walks into a bar-”
In person, we’d at least realize the insensitivity and rudeness of our disregard for others. I’D realize. Each time any person opens his mouth, or even opens his phone to shoot a text, he is sharing a piece of himself, a tiny peal of his soul that we have the opportunity to then cherish or stomp underfoot.
The worst part is that I’ve been doubling this disregard for others by texting people while also attempting to hold conversations in person. This brusque selfishness has become so commonplace that most people wouldn’t be bothered by or even notice my conduct. But that is still not the point; I’M not enjoying my life as fully and I do notice if I am not caring about my friends and family to the best of my abilities. They may not be able to readily identify what it is I’m doing, but I know they can feel it– even if only subconsciously.
I mean, can you imagine how this would have changed the course of history? Can you imagine terrorists stopping to instagram selfies of their latest suicide bombs? Can you imagine how well the Spartan soldiers would have fought if they all had in-battle entertainment TV screens on the backs of the soldiers in front of them? Can you imagine Jesus teaching his disciples while Peter fiddles with a Samsung Galaxy and goes, “Umm hang on one second… let me just finish this text.”
Totally unrealistic. The twelve disciples would obviously be using Mac products.
After all of the experience I’ve have with technology mucking up social interactions from the other end, why am I doing this now? How many times has an unidentified and uninvited third party joined us on my nights with my husband, circumventing the doorman and slipping in through the iPhone at the bedside? How many times have I shared part of myself with a friend only to have them look up blankly from their smart phones with a slow, “Sorry. What?”
All of these people are free to choose the course of their own lives as they please and I have enough in my life to not be angered or irritated or feel inconvenienced by the choices of others.
But those are not my choices. That is not my life. I have every intention of living purposefully– even if that means my fashion board on Pinterest has to suffer slightly.
So I’ve decided that I will keep my iPad in a particular spot in my apartment and will only open it at designated times for designated purposes. The same goes for my phone. I’ve decided that if a friend is worth texting, they are worth calling.
And yet, I’m scared of this decision. I’m scared because I know that not all of my friends share this conviction and that many will not come to this same conclusion. I know that to some people I will only be worth the slight twitching of the thumbs that it takes to press the “send” button, that the green button with the picture of the old-fashioned phone on it is just too much to ask. And there is nothing on the planet that scares me more than being alone or feeling alone, even momentarily.
And what about Zoe, who is growing up with iPhones? Will she find the time to make actual phone calls or will any voice contact be an anachronism by the time she is out of the house?
I have to stick with what I know is true. And I know that while not everyone will choose to make the time for me, some people will and that is enough.