I have never texted anyone in my life, and don’t plan to–ever. While I understand the efficacy of it; instead of calling each and every one of your loved ones to tell them you are home safe from a trip, you text one list and boom–you’re done. But it isn’t for me. First of all, I despise “text speak,” such as “ware U at?” Shudder. Second, my thumbs have more important things to do.
So, how about we just TALK with people? How hard is that? How can people be so chatty while texting, yet have so little to say to an actual person?
I think we lose a lot when we allow technology to replace human contact. Not only does that minimalize the gift of gab, but nearly excludes it. Actual talking conveys so much more than words; it is the gestures, the posture, the eye contact and the sheer physicality of another human being that makes speech important. Speaking directly to another person is human contact.
Since the advent of personal computing devices; tablets, iPhones, Google watches and their ilk, our culture has shifted to a place never before experienced by mankind. I do understand and appreciate the advances we have made, and many of those devices are lifesavers for shut-ins, the disabled, and so on. Like any invention, there is always a good/bad ratio.
Let’s just talk about the ramifications of being able to hide behind a screen identity in the case of teenagers. Again, technology is great for the awkward and ill-at-ease; you can stand there and fiddle around with your device and look busy. Back in the dark ages when I was a teen, you had to just stand there, not knowing what to do with your hands, looking awkward and weird at the same time.
But the downside of all this technical social media is how rampant and vicious bullying has become. It has assumed a new and terrifying personality never seen before: cyber bullying. All of us have been teenagers and know what agony it can be; you are still trying to figure out who you are and emotions run hot and tender. Say you are a teenage girl at that gangly stage where you are all knees and elbows. You haven’t discovered your own style yet, and don’t have the “right” clothes to fit in with the cool kids. You aren’t a stellar student, and you don’t play sports, so right away you stick out like a goose among cute and fluffy little chicks.
These days where nearly every kid at least carries a cell phone, you are an easy target for cyber bullying. Mean girls can snap naked pictures of you in the shower and send them out into the teenage cyber jungle. You can slip and fall in the lunchroom, and end up on your butt with literal eggs on your face and snap: you’re out there in the cybersphere on YouTube, and the laughs keep on coming.
Even kids who have strong and loving families with lots of support have a hard time with this. Even if you are the rare teen who is both different than the pack and is comfortable with who you are–it is hard to see yourself in an awkward moment on the net and know that the whole school is laughing at you. All too often, we read about teens who simply cannot take it anymore and take themselves out of this world. How immensely sad this is, and how unnecessary.
My take on this? If there was a real effort to re-establish plain old face-to-face talking instead of relying constantly on this or that device, that we would be better for it. Better for us as people, as a culture and as a nation. When you can see and know what damage your words have done to someone; I don’t care how hardened and “whatever-ish” you are: you KNOW you have caused harm. Also, when you can see how a few kind words can lift another person, you know you have done a bit of good.
Think back on the people and the words that have changed your life. It is said that we may not remember so much the words spoken to us, but we will always remember how they made us feel. That right there will last a whole lot longer than seeing “ware U at?” on your personal device.