Friday, June 22, 2012

Ill Communication

When texting just isn't sufficient. RIP

How do we keep up with all of the people we care about? Family, old friends, new friends, friends in low places, friends with benefits, Fox and Friends, friends we’ve made at conferences, friends we met on twitter. We could, I suppose, clarify what constitutes “friend” vs “acquaintance” vs “dude/chick that seemed cool,” but because all those qualifications are often separate parts of the same process, and because you’re not an idiot, we’ll just say “friends". 

An article in the guardian from 2009 questions whether technology is a tyrannical force “driving us further apart.” Not if INXS has anything to say about it!

If 2009 is too long ago—“C’mon, Mink, I’ve live-tweeted the births of three children and Instagrammed 16 vacays since then, bruh”—then here is a more current labeling of modern communication as a tyrannical force dumbing us down. Mark Bauerlein's piece feels very much like an updated version of Sam Waterston’s robot worries

Miami Heat fans would say you're just hatin'. Then they would do this and this.

I don't necessarily disagree with what Elizabeth Day is saying, though she seems terribly young to fear machines, because she's simply reporting back the beliefs of communication's old guard--"Hitch this calligraphy to the wagon, Buck, and make sure Mrs. Haversham receives it directly!"--but I do take issue with Bauerlein's assertions, which seem more provocative than proven. 

There’s a running joke within my crew of how incapable I am of surviving without my cellphone, even while physically amongst friends who are trying to carry on a conversation with me. I am never beyond pulling out my cellphone while a buddy is in mid-sentence to check my twitter, Facebook, email, or text. In my mind, I’m fully capable of doing all of the things all of the time. But the fact is that it’s rude, and it’s a social misstep I no longer even recognize I’m making. It’s routine, habit, addiction. I am immersed in so many lines of communication that I forget those right in front of me, and subconsciously, I think, I worry that if I don’t know what’s going on everywhere with everyone and don’t respond asap that the world will pass me by. It’s terrifying!

This is why I, in part, agree with the rhetoric that accuses me of being a mindless drone plugged into a spiritually dead world, leading us further away from the very intimacy that defines us as human. My b.

But where these saviors of ye old handshake miss the point is time and priority.

I say! What ravenous clicking on that picture box!
Bauerlein says, “most young people in the United States neither read literature (or fully know how), work reliably (just ask employers), visit cultural institutions (of any sort), nor vote (most can’t even understand a simple ballot.)"

Surely you’re aware that young people today travel much more than generations before, and that, there is only so much you can bring on a plane. Shall I pack an extra suitcase of books because I like the smell of paper, or just use my kindle? It’s a valid question. For while I’m sure not everyone uses their kindle to read War and Peace while on layover, they’re also not all banging away on Pac-Man.

At Florida State University (where I am a PhD student in Creative Writing), Graduate TA’s teach over 80% of the undergraduate courses offered in the English Department. Ask our employers how that’s working out for them. I would forward you their numerous emails lauding our efforts each semester, but I doubt you’d read them. Principles and all.

What counts as a “cultural institution”? Museums? Visit them each time I’m in a city that has them. Not all do. But that speaks to government funding of the arts, as well as each particular city’s wealth of economy. Much larger discussion, but it’s not the fault of those who tweet.

Voting. Oof. You can’t be serious. Is it your belief that Obama was elected President of the United States largely on the shoulders of old white people? You think Butch, who runs the hardware store in upstate New York, plastered his windows in “Hope” or “Change”?

Scientific method? In what arena? Tuesday I was with a young writer who got every physics question correct at trivia night. We were in a bar WRITING the answers in PENCIL on PAPER! Oh, the sophistication!

I can recount a ton of American history: there’s slavery, the corruption of government, capitalism, the patriarchy within the literary community (past and present), war, an economy our corrupt government renders impossible to understand or control. What else? Oh! Classism. Elitism. Racism. Ageism. Gender bias.

Here's a local representative. Impressive, right? 
You’ve got us on the knowledge of local representatives. We suck at it. Then again, local government is more easily corrupted, so we become jaded. That’s still our fault, but again, more complicated than just, “those damned kids.”

“They spend unbelievable amounts of time electronically passing stories.” You mean like news of what’s happening in the world? Oppressive regimes? The rise or fall of democracy? Polling numbers? Essays by an increasingly intelligent army of bloggers who often report the world’s happenings before Scoop McNulty at the Times can pull his golf pencil from his favorite fedora?

Oh. You don’t like funny cat pictures, e-cards, duckfaces, OMG’s and LMFAO’s. These things raise my hackles, as well. But then again, they take 2 seconds of your life, and you can choose to ignore them, dial Professor Pumpernickel on your rotary, and complain over static.

The fact is, to meet a friend or to call a friend or to write a friend a letter takes time. Now imagine you've more friends than just Professor Pumpernickel. Now imagine those multiple friends are dealing with the shit that life often is and need a shoulder to cry on, an ear to ramble into. Or they just want to discuss what they've seen, read, heard. Or they have a relevant joke. Or, GASP, they want to discuss work, an assignment, moving, etc. 

So you’re a part of these multiple dialogues with multiple friends, and often, you require these same things of them. You are the shit in the shit of life with shit on your mind you must get out in lieu of going bonkers fucking crazy. This happens.

And it happens on top of the little things one must accomplish each minute, each hour, each day in order to be successful.

Going out for a paper means having to dodge these people.
Technology, while certainly flawed in many ways, makes this navigation faster and more manageable. It’s that simple. If I couldn’t IM or email or tweet or Facebook comment on a friend having a baby, getting married, suffering a death in the family, getting a job, publishing a book, then we would lose touch. I don’t want that. The world is hard enough without adding “lonely as hell” to the equation. I love these people. I am fortunate to have them in my life, and if technology makes that easier, Christ, makes it possible at all, then we’re better for it. Not to mention the FUCKTONSHITLOADS of information made readily available at the click of a key. I don’t even have to leave my house. I don’t have to go outside, travel to some location, pick up a paper, and run into your crabby ass who’s probably going to cut me off in traffic because you drive like shit.

What’s more is that many employers, at least in my field, now REQUIRE a social media presence on applications. Facebook, twitter, a blog, an email, Pinterest. PINTEREST! They want me to scrapbook! So even if I wanted to sit in a dingy house reading my Freud through a monocle and stroking my beagle, Claudius, I would still be FORCED to be a part of the digital community in order to make myself more viable for potential employment.  

Got it? Now, go follow me on something.

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