I might officially be an anachronism.
I’m still using a flip phone, and I don’t use it to access the web. I actually dial people’s numbers and TALK to them. Oh, sure, I’ll text as well and send a few photos. But I mostly use it to TALK.
I’m Gen X, which means I’m an immigrant to the digital world. I grew up without the interwebs, without voicemail (or answering machines), without cable, without cell phones, and without DVDs. VHS came along in the late 70s/early 80s, but most of us saw movies at the theater when they were released. (Oh, want more info about how primitive and weird things were for my generation? Here.)
I spent most of my summers outdoors with friends, or we got together at each other’s houses. We’d call each other on landlines and if nobody answered, we figured he or she was busy and we’d call back later. Or, if they did have answering machines, we’d leave a message. Eventually, we’d catch up with each other. No big deal if it took a few hours. Or a day or two. We all had other things to do. We’d meet up at various hangouts and get caught up on rumors, gossip, and plans for the upcoming days.
Point being, we TALKED. Face-to-face and on the phone.
That, I think, is becoming a lost art.
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I spoke to a young man the other day. He’s in his early 20s. He was organizing a group project and he had an app on his smartphone that enabled him to collect a bunch of cell phone numbers and blast texts to his group. Handy tool, especially to make sure everybody gets assignments and meeting places at the same time. My other friend — about my age — said he was going to call a couple of his friends and the young man looked at him like he was crazy. He said he never called anybody on his smartphone because talking to people on the phone was weird.
The other guy and I looked at each other and started laughing. Later, I thought about what the younger guy had said, and I thought about how I’d seen groups of younger people out with their friends ignoring each other and focused instead on their phones. Why go out with someone if you’re not going to engage? If you’re not going to look someone in the eyes and get a sense of who they are, what they like, and why you enjoy hanging out with that person? How can you possibly get a sense of that through a piece of plastic and metal and characters on a screen (unless you’re Facetiming or doing some other form of live video chat)?
Smart phones, like other electronic devices, can be really neat tools. That’s how I, in my anachronistic way, view them. Tools to make a few things easier. I don’t have a smart phone, but it’s probably sadly inevitable that I’ll get one because of our disposable society and rather than remain satisfied with something that works well and lasts a long time, people throw things out and upgrade practically every year. It’s going to be difficult to get my current flip phone fixed should anything go wrong with it, because it’s already way out of date, though smart phones are delicate creatures (a big drawback for me). My current flip phone is built to military specs so it can take a beating, because I’m an outdoorsy kinda gal. I’m pleased to say that this pup has been dropped numerous times from various heights, on various surfaces, and it’s still fine. Here, in case you’re wondering what make and model it is.
I’m glad I’m an immigrant to the digital world, and that I didn’t grow up plugged in, because I can communicate in many more ways with a lot of different people across a wide variety of ages. And I like being inaccessible (i.e. not answering my phone and not responding right away to messages), and I like not having an issue with talking to people on the phone or face-to-face, whether I know them or not. And I can walk away from the plugged in, frenetic pace that we’ve created with all these crazy devices that in many ways further isolate us from each other and ourselves.
So with that in mind, I’ll leave you with a couple of links. Joe Bunting, at The Write Practice, says:
The best stories, like the best lives, revolve around relationships, relationships that are beginning and relationships that are ending, relationships that are destroyed by death and resurrected by forgiveness. Life is about relationship.
I think you’ll appreciate his advice that follows that quote.
And finally, a Toyota commercial (of all things) that sums up what I’ve been talking about here. Do yourselves a favor. Unplug a few times a week and get to know yourself and others. I guarantee it’ll help your writing and help with a lot of other things, too. 😀