Generally speaking, I love technology. I have a lot of it in my personal possession, too. I have a laptop computer, an Android-powered Smartphone, an iPod, and, best of all, my Kindle. We have top-notch cable television, with HD and a DVR–all the bells and whistles. I have all the cool features on the house phone, too; call waiting, call forwarding, three-way calls, and my personal favorite–the point of this post–caller ID.
For those of you who may have been living under a rock for the last ten years like that guy in the Geico commercial, caller ID allows you to look at a little box and view the name and number of the person who is calling you. Now, there’s another way to get this information, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Sometimes, there’s no name, just a number. These tend to be telemarketers or–shudder–bill collectors.
Sometimes it’s a random number that we don’t know, even though it looks like a local number. Here’s where the trouble starts. When the phone rings in my house, I watch in amazement as various members of my family intently study the caller ID as though the winning lottery numbers are going to be revealed there in secret code.
Then they start calling out the number, seeing if anyone can recognize it. They study and study and call out the number over and over. Then, the phone stops ringing. We didn’t answer it. Then this circular conversation begins, a conversation that makes me want to simultaneously scream, cry, and throw up. “Who was that?” “I don’t know! I didn’t recognize the number!” “What was it again?” God save the queen! Here’s the big secret, a secret so…..secretive….that I can barely even type it here for fear secret telephone company agents will swoop in on me and cut my phone cord: Want to know who’s on the other end of the phone? ANSWER THE DAMN PHONE!
I do love technology, but I sometimes wonder if we aren’t slowly building a fancy, touchscreen wall around ourselves that will eventually shut us out of society to the point where we never have to have actual contact with another human being again. Even actually talking on the phone is giving way to texting. We happily “socialize” with people on Facebook that we couldn’t be bothered to stay in touch with for fifteen years.
Maybe it’s easier to interact with people this way. I’ve often said I wish my life had a spell check and a delete button. True issues that arise in real interpersonal relationships are never addressed. If someone pisses you off, you commit the ultimate act of social rejection–you unfriend them. Who cares? You have 273 more where they came from. That’s another thing–have any of us ever had 270 friends in our entire lifetime combined, let alone all at once?
It’s the cowards way out, no doubt about it. Relationships are hard to keep up, sometimes more trouble than they are worth. So maybe we are conditioning ourselves to have simple, meaningless ones that don’t cost a thing–but the trade-off is that they don’t mean all that much, either. Part of knowing a person is knowing the things that make them who they are–their eyes, their facial expressions, the tone of their voice when they get mad, or sad, or happy–all of that is lost in the social network. Maybe that’s the way we want it.
For me, I’m a hypocrite. I say all of this stuff from up here on my pedestal, but I love all of my techie stuff. I text every day, I love Facebook, and it doesn’t hurt my feelings one bit to read my book digitally instead of holding the actual written word in my hands. Still, I can recognize a depressing trend. I think most people are already socially challenged–this can’t be helping. My biggest fear is that I’m getting old, and that’s why I feel this way. I’m two sermons away from chasing kids off of my lawn while brandishing my cane. Oh well. I need to wrap this up. It’s getting late, and I need to text my mom goodnight.