by Annette Dashofy
The times, they are a changing.
I’ve noticed some changes in the world around me that have me a little sad and perplexed. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy most technology. I spend a large part of my life on the computer and online. I love staying in touch with friends on Facebook. And I’m gradually getting my feet wet on Twitter. But I fear we’re losing something at the same time.
Not long ago I was driving through a small town not far from here. It was a gorgeous summer day. Sunny. Not too hot. And I happen to know that this small town is not a retirement community. There are families living there. With kids. But there wasn’t a soul outside. No laughing, giggling children on bikes or skates. No impromptu game of baseball. No one playing hide-and-seek. No Frisbees or Hula Hoops or bubble wands. The streets were deserted.
It occurred to me there was a potential story here. Sci-fi. Time traveler from the seventies lands in this small town in 2010 and believes…what? Aliens have made off with the residents? The air is too poisoned to breathe?
Go ahead and make one up if you want. I don’t write sci-fi, so I don’t mind if you steal my idea.
But what happened to playing outside? Something that doesn’t require batteries. Something that won’t give you carpel tunnel. As several of us mentioned last month when our theme here at Working Stiffs was “summer,” our mothers would throw us out of the house with orders not to return until sunset. The closest I came to using a small, handheld device was a water pistol.
Last week, a friend of mine who’s a school teacher was saying that the hallways between classes, which I remember being loud with conversation and laughter, are now silent. Kids text each other instead of actually talking. The person they’re texting might be ten feet away.
Jumping back to the sci-fi thing for a moment, I remember episodes of Star Trek or Twilight Zone or one of those old shows, where an alien society had evolved to telepathic communication instead of speech. Is texting the stepping stone?
There’s another form of communication that is slowly dying in this text message world we live in. Phone calls. I remember when I was a kid (back in the dark ages), any time our phone rang, I’d pounce on it. It might be a friend. And then I could easily be on the phone for hours.
One of the side jobs I’ve picked up to earn a few extra dollars during Hubby’s unemployment stint involves me being an Avon new rep helper. I’m supposed to call new Avon reps and ask what I can do to help them, give them suggestions, or otherwise be a part of their support system. Also, I’m supposed to call a few people who have expressed an interest in becoming Avon sales reps and schedule appointments with them to get them signed up.
No one answers their phones any more. All I get is voice mail. For a society that feels a need to be in constant contact with everyone via Twitter, Facebook, and text messaging, no one wants to talk to me on the phone. I leave a message. They don’t call back.
Good thing I’m a writer with a strong familiarity with rejection.
So I ask you, fellow Working Stiffs and readers, have we as a society lost our ability to communicate verbally? Or should I shut up and be happy that kids are reading, even if that reading involves a shorthand I can’t decipher for the life of me?