I was just thinking about…insularity
By K.B. Sherman
We are more and more alone. For while it seems to me that machine technology has benefitted mankind in many ways, it has come at a steep price. Machines are by their nature supposed to alleviate the burdens of work, yet it seems clear to me that work simply expands to fill all available technology. Perhaps that should be The First Law of Technology.
It wasn’t that long ago that when after you left your job at the end of the day, you were on your own time. There was the telephone, of course, but it was limited to reaching you at the end of a land line if you were actually home. And felt like answering it. But otherwise you were on your own time to be with family, eat dinner together, relax with friends or whatever. The advent of the personal computer and email and the web in the 1980s rearranged that because you could now send and receive messages when you felt like it. The bad news was that you could also be reached when you were supposed to be on your own time. This has two effects: to expand your work day and to isolate you from what would have been either a phone call or a face-to-face meeting with someone. There have been books written about the false sense of intimacy such communication can create, with the extreme being people who stalk celebrities because, in the mind of the stalker, they are “intimately acquainted” with someone they have never met. More time “communicating” without actually being with someone.
But far more important than computer communication in deepening our insularity has been the advent of the cellular phone on every belt and in every purse. By its nature, machine technology separates us from what would have been personal contact and forces us to live more in a world in which we dispatch and receive messages like a ship-wrecked person using messages in empty bottles for that function. Going to a restaurant and seeing 200 people all with their eyes in their laps, texting, is almost a parody at this point, and the texting driver has become a road hazard arguably more dangerous that the drunk driver. If you travel by air, you’ll notice that as soon as the aircraft leaves the runway and taxis to the ramp, 156 cell phones suddenly appear in peoples’ hands despite the crew’s pleas not to do so until reaching the gate. Work has expanded to fill even those moments which would, only a few years ago, have been a blessed solitary respite.
For all our contemporary communication, we are ever less connected to what is going on around us in the real world. Sadly, we are more and more alone by our own choosing. Is this really what we want?
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