I railed the other day against the evils of Facebook and Twitter. Personally, I find those stupid little beeping things to be just about the deadliest tools mankind has ever invented. Worse than the Atomic Bomb, the AK-47, and American Idol put together. Andrea Peyser in today's NYPost agrees, and tells of one particular horror story of the Social Networking Age.
It's bad enough that, for example, here in New York we have had to pass laws against people using a cell phone in a moving vehicle, but we've had to take it step further and pass laws against texting while driving. You can hardly walk fifty feet in this city without running into some self-important douche with a Bluetooth stuck to his ear. You can't sit quietly on the subway or the bus without your ears being assaulted by a variety of ringtones, buzzes and beeps, and the absolute worst, being privy -- against your will -- to half of someone else's conversation, because Heaven Forbid they should have to call someone back because they can't hear them. No, it's best just to scream over the noise of the ferryboat into your little box, because the complete stranger sitting 11 rows behind you still doesn't know every detail of your boring little life.
You can't buy anything without a cashier asking for your cell number or e-mail address. You can't ask people for directions, because thanks to personal GPS systems or apps, they don't know the streets of their hometown anymore...even in neighborhoods they've lived in for a million years. Nowadays, we just follow the flashing lights on the cell. People don't even exchange phone numbers anymore: my nephew has a girlfriend that he never calls, but I'll bet he has the strongest thumbs I've ever seen...from all that texting they do together.
I got a note from a neighbor a few days ago regarding my wayward trash cans (the Sanitation men were rather careless with them...again...I gather). Right there on that little piece of paper, my neighbor (I guess she's about 40, and a mother) had written "LOL" and put an emoticon (those little internet smiley faces) next to her signature. Moron.
My sister has somehow managed to do the impossible. Yesterday, I saw her carry on five conversations...at once. She had her husband on the house phone, one of her Little League moms on the cell. She answered a text message on the BlackBerry, an IM in her AOL session, all while sending a fax.
What was she faxing?
A letter of complaint to her cell company. It seems they charged her too much for text messaging,and she was sending THEM a copy of their own contract to prove it.
It's gotten so bad, that people don't even speak to each other anymore unless there's an electronic contrivance involved. Personally, this PC is the only compromise I've made. I don't own a cell (refuse to carry one), I don't use an online "social" service anymore. I don't Facebook or MySpace, and I haven't touched my LinkedIn page in a year. Won't pick up a BlackBerry. I don't feel the need to be"connected"to anything...ever. I never feel as if I'm missing anything; you can still leave a message at the sound of the tone -- I'll get it...eventually -- and I've had the same (singular) e-mail address for a decade now.
I don't beep. I don't buzz. I don't vibrate. I'm not Social Networked, and not only do I NOT feel like an outcast, I'm fucking ecstatic about the fact. It's a badge of honor, to me.
But, I can speak. In fact, I actually LIKE to talk to people. I can carry on the most extraordinary conversations. I can talk your ear off, if you let me. And guess what else I can do with this wonderful command of the Art of Conversation?
Lots of them, in fact. Without having to see them online, or browse a rogues gallery of mugshots in the Social Network thingamajig. I can actually ask them out without feeling odd because there hasn't been several months of text messages between us and we haven't "friended" each other. I get to evaluate them all by myself, instead of relying upon the often-confused opinion of my online homies responding to my internet poll. They love to talk, you know, and they enjoy the give-and-take of real conversation.
Try that with a phone stuck in your ear.
This fabulous power of conversation makes it easier to exchange bodily fluids...instead of emoticons. This amazing power of speech, the ability to relate to another on a human level, simply amazes others who see it in action. It's a wonder: it reminds me that I'm human. It's not antiseptic. I actually enjoy it; there is no distance involved. Conversation is a lost art, and all that electronic whizzbangery does nothing except to ensure it will remain lost -- and make the rest of you progressively dumber, and emotionally sterile.