In actuality I am an admirer and big-time user of technology. I have an iPhone 5, iPad, Google Chromebook, iPod. I try to get the latest apps and follow the most recent nifty websites and Tumblrs.
Digital advancements have given us an amazing gift. Information up the wazoo, connectivity to people and places that are afar or impossible to access without a screen or a modem. And social media gives everyone a voice so that they can express views, show what they like, display milestones. This is powerful stuff.
And I say all of that so that I can complain about an aspect of technology and not sound like a complete Luddite.
What I’ve noticed—and when I want to throw my smartphone across the room—is that people often hide behind their devices, use technology as a barrier.
The latest example pointed out by a friend: the texting relationship.
By this, I don’t mean using texting to set dates. Totally fine. Nor do I mean some cute, playful text banter. This is freakin’ adorable when done right and often builds anticipation to see the other person again. That seeing part is key—and not just on the other end of a selfie. Spending time in person with another human being is splendid and should always be the goal. There are no substitutes. It somehow disturbs me that technology users have coined and use the term IRL (“in real life”), as if it’s some crazy, new-fangled deal that just became accessible to us.
The type of dynamic my friend mentioned is text-centric rather than texting as a side dish. To illustrate, a conversation about the relationship could go something like this:
Oh, so you and Johnny are dating, right?
Well, sort of dating.
What do you mean?
Well, we’ve gone on a date … but now we’re texting.
He texts me, I text back. We text all the time
Or, alternatively, the whole back-and-forth could stop and start with texting sans in-person dates.
If texts were romantic, longing declarations with fluid, beautiful language a la Robert Frost or William Shakespeare I could maybe handle just texting with a guy instead of him pursuing me in the same physical space.
But “How do I love thee, let me count the ways” most phone texts are not. They’re more like:
What u doing?
Are u out?
I hope your (sic) day was good
Texting has a tendency to turn even the most articulate, intelligent of us into cavemen and cavewomen barking out wishes, commands and fragmented responses about what we’re doing. An Ivy league, D.C. lawyer could be devolved into someone who is incapable of writing out a full word. I’m thinking it’s tough to get to know someone in any substantial way with this as the primary mode of communication.
Last month I saw technology accomplish some amazing things that made human life better. When a few inches of snow left Atlanta in a standstill, citizens started up a Facebook page called SnowedOutAtlanta so that stranded motorists could post messages about problems they were enduring in the cold and Good Samaritans could get them food or gas or suggest a slightly-warm store in which they could sleep for a few hours while congestion cleared up. This is digital solving a problem. It’s a computer as a facilitator.
Deciding to pseudo-date someone by mostly interacting in non-communicative texts is not making humanity better. It’s most certainly not our finest example, of a species, as using technology to do more.