Technology – At What Cost?

I don’t get texting. I don’t text and I’m not sure my cell phone even has the capacity to text although my husband says it does. Besides, what could possibly be so important when I’m in a grocery store, restaurant or in my car, that I would have to text someone? If I have something to say to someone, I wait until I’m home and pick up the phone or email them.

Now I do know that my niece has to text her babysitter otherwise the teenager won’t call her back. That’s the way it is now. But I really don’t get it. I love the sound of my husband’s voice and I guess he’s used to my Brooklyn accent, so we call each other a lot. I enjoy using Skype because it brings me and my family another step closer than the telephone. But that’s just me.

We’re told all these new advances in technology are supposed to improve and increase our ability to communicate with one another. What I see is a growing lack of interpersonal interaction. Instead of enjoying each other’s company, I see young people sitting together, texting, and ignoring one another; no one is talking. They’re all on their little machines thumbing messages to someone rather than talking to the person next to them.

I’ve even sat with a young man in a restaurant who was holding his phone under the table, texting away, hoping none of us would notice but we all did. Now how rude is that?

My husband tells me there are now cell phones with two cameras that enable a person to text while they’re walking and still be able to see the street in front of them on their screen. How insane is that? I foresee plenty of lawsuits by people being hit by cars because they weren’t watching where they were going.

The use of Twitter and Facebook and other social media networks has also added a dehumanization and anonymity factor into the mix which makes it possible for anyone to say anything without any fear of reprisal. It’s also allowed for schoolyard bullies to do the same damage, except they can now hide behind their computers.

I saw an interview with the creator of Pandora Radio and he was asked, “if you could advise students in college today what they should focus on, what would it be?” I was surprised when he said “public speaking” but I guess when young people can’t or don’t even talk to the person sitting next to them except monosyllabically, the number of articulate teens dwindles while a growing number are incapable of speaking to anyone especially a large audience.

Another thing I don’t get is the shorthand of texting. I guess if you’re limited to the number of characters you’re allowed in a text message it might make sense, but when I’m on Twitter, I find it far more interesting to figure out a way to succinctly say something using real words.

I’ve even heard of a teacher who gave her students an assignment to send a note by mail and actually had to take the time to show them how to fold the paper, address an envelope, and put a stamp on it. I actually feel sorry for young people today who’ll never experience receiving a beautifully handwritten passionate love letter in the mail from their beloved. Instead, they’ve probably grown accustomed to texts that say, “Wanna hook up?” Very sad.

I wonder what our eloquent Founding Fathers would think about all this. I’ll bet they’d be shocked to learn how far we’ve advanced technologically yet have lost our ability to interact and communicate with one another.

I’m going to say they’d agree with me and I’ve no doubt if they were going to text, they’d write, without contractions, of course, “IDNGI, but if you do, God bless you.”

Author Bio:

For over twenty years, Leona has tried to heed her husband’s advice, “you don’t have to say everything you think.” She’s failed miserably. Licensed to practice law in California and Washington, she works exclusively in the area of child abuse and neglect. She considers herself a news junkie and writes about people and events on her website, “I Don’t Get It,” which she describes as the “musings of an almost 60-year old conservative woman on political, social and cultural life in America.” It’s not her intention to offend anyone who “gets it.” She just doesn’t. Originally from Brooklyn, and later Los Angeles, she now lives with her husband, Michael, on a beautiful island in the Pacific Northwest, which she describes as a bastion of liberalism.
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  • Ron

    The Wall Street Journal has a good article on the first page of The Journal Report on Monday, May 9, 2011, “My Grandparents R My BFF!” about how technology is allowing grandparents to stay connected with grandchildren much more than in the past.

    • Leona Salazar

      Yes, I did read the WSJ article last Monday and, as I said in my article, there are some good things like Skype, which I use regularly to see and talk to my nieces and nephews and their little ones. I guess my husband and I are the only ones concerned when we see young people gathered together on the bus, on the ferry, or at the airport not speaking to one another but texting someone else. It wouldn’t dawn on me to go out with a friend and then sit and talk on the phone (I don’t text) to someone else. As Teddi mentioned below, technology has taken a toll on young people’s social skills.

  • JDO

    As a Little League coach, a quick text (and email) gives me the opportunity to communicate to all of my boys’ parents at one time, not to mention that two of the boys (brothers) parents are deaf, and that’s the only way I’d be able to communicate with them (unless their kids were present).

    However, there is a time and place for it. It never ceases to bug me when people sit there and text away like mad when they’re sitting at a table with you or in the car talking or, heck, wherever. Not only that, it’s getting to the point where no one even apologizes for doing that. At least it used to be, if someone got a phone call during dinner, they’d apologize, excuse themselves and take it elsewhere. No longer! Hey, you just fire off a text and pretend nothing has happened. It’s just plain rude. I wouldn’t have so much a problem with texting if our level of manners (as a society) weren’t going down in proportion to how much we now use texting as a form of communication.

  • begbie

    Personally, I don’t like to talk on the phone. When someone calls me, I appreciate it when they just get to the point and dispense with the,”so how are you….oh nothing much, just takin it easy…..yeah….yeah…..”. I think it’s irritating to talk about nothing.

    I guess you could compare your views on texting to those who grew up reading newspapers, then radio came about, then tv came about and everyone said “gosh, we don’t read and use our imagination anymore!” But texting reintroduces the need for reading and imagination, if you’re texting with the right crowd. Just another way to look at it.

  • TomSr

    I agree with much of what you said. However, my wife left on a day trip today with her friends and I sent her a quick text saying “I miss you already.” When I later spoke with her she said my text put a smile on her face.


    • Leona Salazar

      Tom, your comment put a smile on my face as well. Your wife’s a lucky gal and I’m sure you’re a lucky guy!

  • Teddi

    I went to a conference recently that was on technology and education. A predominant theme that came out of it related to the differences between generations and technology. The speakers said that adults use technology as a tool. The younger generations, especially teens and elementary aged children, have grown up with technology and see it as a part of themselves. It is not separate, but an integrated part of their social identity. So I can see why someone my age (middle aged) does not understand why younger people approach technology the way they do. We just look at it differently and it meets needs differently. Also, I teach college courses, some which involve nursing students. I see a lot more difficulty with interpersonal skills for those who have grown up on technology. I had one student tell me she did not want to talk to people (and she wants to be a nurse). So although it has its place, I think the integration of technology into young lives has a price to pay when it comes to social skills.

  • Ron

    don’t have a cell phone so I obviously do not text. But aren’t people communicating and interacting with others when the text. We use emails instead of sending letters. Isn’t that a shorthand substitute for letters? On the other hand we might email more than we would have sent letters so we might be communicating more. Even with blogs we are communicating without the human interaction. With television, we gave up interaction.

  • Roger Ward

    Bruce is correct, texting does have its place …. but only in a limited and specific set of circumstances. Except for those few circumstances, I don’t understand why anyone would spend the time required for texting. You can get a lot more said on a phone in the same amount of time, with greater precision and specificity, than you can in a text. So call me a Luddite, I’d rather talk.

  • Bruce A.

    Texting does have it’s place in todays society. It is especially great to use when you have to deal with people you don’t like, people with impaired hearing or people who just babble on & on & on while on the phone.