Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Have cell-phones killed the art of conversation?

As a writer observation is and must be a tool I utilize. Lately I have noticed something during my observations that disturbs me more than a little.

Let me tell you about something that happened recently.

I was seated on a crowded commuter train. Across the aisle to my left where two bench seats facing one another, occupied by 8 young people around 15 years of age at a guess. They crammed in 4 aside, amid much laughter. I smiled fondly at the giggling and recalled my own daughter at that age.

That’s where the similarity ended. The giggling was familiar, the behavior wasn’t.

I looked on in utter fascination as one by one they extracted mobile phones and set their collective thumbs to work. Within seconds the carriage was filled with the sound of ringing telephones or music…I thought at first they had each received incoming calls simultaneously, weird yes…but plausible.

It soon became obvious from the loud conversations that they were in fact talking to each other.

They were sitting knee touching knee, with faces less than 3 feet away from each other talking to each other by telephone.

I was jolted. What the?

I watched. Waiting for the body language and eye contact to start.

It didn’t.

Each youngster had their right or left hand up to their ear. Each were gazing of into a distance, avoiding eye contact with any of the others.

They gestured with their free hand …quite animatedly, chatting away. It didn’t take long to figure who was talking to whom.

A couple of the young guys were getting quite aggravated by what was being said, their voices raised and faces reddening.

Everyone without a hearing aid, or an iphone inserted in the ear could clearly hear the conversations.

“You are so dropped” she said.

“Fuck you!” he said
Another round of ringing phones.

“She dropped me” he said

“She’s a slut anyway!” from another of the males.

This continued for around another ten minutes. By then most people were craning forward so as not to miss the unfolding drama.

During the entire display, no physical contact or eye contact took place. Not in any way.

I was disturbed by it. Very disturbed. These teens didn’t appear to be aware of the other people in the carriage. They were in a vacuum of space where only voices on a phone connected.

Apart from the interruption of two of the group taking videos of the boy who had just been dropped…What the fuck?

For me this has become a little frightening folks. What the hell has the new technology created. What happened to kids talking face to face and eye to eye?

What happened to private moments shared between only two participants?

The virtual world appears to have generated an entire generation lost in cyberspace.

I couldn’t help but shudder. What would they do in an emergency?

What if one of their companions should be ill, or cry, would they take a video…talk to each other on their phones about it?

Would they even know how to offer physical comfort?

I began observing people more often. How long can a teen sit on a train, or bus…or in the family car without texting or talking to another person on the phone.

Have they ever learned to value quiet moments alone? Or must their lives be filled moment to moment with chatter or text.

Next time you try a conversation with a teen…take a look at the body language…if there is any.

And don't even get me started on driving and talking on the phone simultaneaously...do you have a death wish?

What the hell have we done?

Sure I am greatful to have the knowledge that I can be reached wherever I go.

It's reassuring to know that help is only a call away if  I need it.

But I am waaaaay past teenage. Way past the times of my life when I learned the art of communicating face to face.

The technology we have available to us today allows us the freedom to do many things.

But just how far do we allow it to alter the basic human need for touch and one on one communication face to face?

I'd be interested in hearing your responses and if you have a similar story to share please do so.

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