Friday, May 27, 2011

"Look At Me"- Might as well replace In God We Trust on the money

This commercial does a very good job summing up what I loathe the most about our current obsession with "sharing" every little thing we say or do (I won't say "think," because I don't think there's a whole lot of "thinking" going on.) Unlimited Talk and Text is a GOOD thing, you see, because it allows us to desperately scream LOOK AT ME to a world increasingly disconnected from human contact- because we are all too busy trying to get noticed to realize that we have created little electronic islands around ourselves.

So while we walk down the street, sit on park benches or on the metro, or do anything else that used to at least create the possibility of bumping into an old friend or making a new one, we are encouraged to burrow deeper and deeper into our own little cocoons of isolation by keeping our eyes fixed on to the little glowing screen. As the airwaves become more and more congested with pointless garbage, we find it necessary to shout louder- where once we talked, now we text, because it's harder to ignore a text. Where once we texted, we now upload videos, because maybe a short of me doing or saying something really stupid will get me some attention before I am drowned out by the Next Really Stupid Thing.

This country is like a guy who finds himself on a crowded beach, surrounded by people with loud radios, each one playing his own tune. Rather than asking his fellow sunbathers to turn down the volume, he pulls out his own radio and cranks it up, providing his own contribution to the increasingly oppressive wall of noise. And cell phone companies just keep responding with the "solution:" Louder Radios.

And telling us this is a Good Thing. And using the closing song to The Yellow Submarine to do it.

I wish people who bought in to this technology would be honest for a moment and ask themselves: what happens if you get your wish, and people stop what they are doing and actually pay attention to you? Once you've hooked us with the video of your stupid face mugging for the camera, or taking a pratfall, now what? Do you really have anything to say? Or did you just want to be acknowledged for a moment, and it's ok for us to just move on now?

Have you always been this sad?


  1. I'm an outgoing person. I will talk to anyone, anywhere. In lines at the grocery store or post office. In waiting rooms. It doesn't matter, I'm not shy. My kids will tease me about the fact I was once introduced by a friend to another- "This is Pahz, she talks to anyone."

    My 21-year-old daughter moved out last Fall. She moved about 90 minutes away and will come home randomly when her live-in boyfriend works over the weekend (he's a firefighter/paramedic). She's home now, as a matter of fact.

    She's got an iPhone, a laptop, Netflix on her TV, and she goes to college- which has a nonstop wireless signal for students.

    She comes home on these weekends because: "I hate being left alone."

    I told her I did the same thing- except I didn't get to come home. The spouse was in the Army, I spent weeks alone with nobody but the cat to talk to. And I'm far more outgoing than she is. We didn't have cable- we had three channels (then four, because FOX came to life). And she feels "alone" with the social media crap at her fingertips.

    I'm astounded.

    But, she's paying her own cell phone bill now, so I don't really care what kind of phone she has anymore.

    My point, I think I had (because the kids have interrupted me three times while I've been typing) is that she feels "alone" in a world with "people" in her pocket. She would have gone insane in the days before mobile Facebook updates and "autocorrect".

  2. Pahz- I don't think that the new "social networking" technology makes us feel less alone and more connected- I actually think the opposite is true. The technology makes us feel that if we are not "connected" 24/7 there is something wrong with us, and we are social outcasts. I don't know how people in their teens and twenties who grow up being conditioned to feel this way are going to deal with the real world, and with real people.

  3. I'm lucky with my kids- we didn't get a computer in the house till the oldest was 14 (the youngest was 10). And they had limited use of it (one hour at a time, unless it was homework-related). So my kids didn't spend hours glued to this machine (nope, that's what I do) like other kids their age.

    Side note: one of the parents thought it odd that our computer is situated in plain view of the living room and that I had all my kids' passwords (email, and eventually MySpace). They said it was an invasion of privacy. I said it was good parenting in that I made sure my kids weren't doing anything to get into trouble online (I could actually trust my kids and aside from checking their email for spam now and then, I never used their passwords).

    They didn't get unlimited computer use till they paid for their own laptops.

    Speaking of that, I have a message I should send you, since you're an educator. You might find it eye-roll-worthy. And you might feel a little sad for the generation who are graduating high school this year.

    Have you ever heard of an elementary education program called Lightspan? (message later)

    But anyway, yes. My kids didn't have unlimited use of the computer till they got their own laptops (with their own paychecks- except kid three. Kid two bought a laptop last summer, then started school in January and instead of buying a bunch of programs, bought a new laptop and had his "old" one wiped clean and gave it to kid three).

    So my kids can deal with the real world. Oddly, they all have jobs in customer service. (one at a pharmacy chain, two at a sporting goods chain, three at a restaurant).

  4. That parent who talked about "privacy" sounds like she's thoroughly whipped and would rather be her kids Facebook friend than a parent in my humble opinion.

    Sounds like you and your family have your shit together. Congratulations on a job well done :>)

  5. Consider, too, the generation of teens who grew up always on the phone. That was partly my generation. The syndrome was made prevalent by having unlimited local telephone service. That was the Midwest; In NYC, this did not yet exist until the mid-90's(!) In the olden times before cheap phoning (never mind long distance), kids played outside after school and later met in diners, record stores, movie theaters, downtowns and malls. People just came over and asked for one another. In the summertime, people reclined against columns or sat on davenports on the porches of America, when the girl next door literally was that.
    I don't think there's much poetry to be squeezed out of the current addiction (light but steady) to gadgets and their power. It doesn't take long to forget text messages and Facebook, once removed, but getting to that point these days is nigh on impossible. Moderation may be the only way out.
    The gadgets do good when really needed, but how often is that?

  6. The ads keep talking about the communications revolution; a revolution has indeed taken place and it's inflicting the associated casualties: human contact, peace of mind, dignity, the average IQ and so on and so forth.