Monday, March 28, 2011

Texting, Facebook and Technology

As I think about technology, I am in awe of all that can be done. So many great things have been made available to us over the years and it appears that we have moved forward. Yet, we may be taking a few steps backwards in some important areas. The primary area of the backwards movement seems to be basic communication . . . the normal, verbal way.
Texting and Facebook (or "Social Networking") have become a way of life and communication to so many of us. Though I can see and do use the benefits myself, it has also distressed me to recognize the downside. Over the past few months, I have done a little experiment and taken a closer look at myself and others regarding communication.
I cannot help but wonder, “Is anyone going to be able to carry on a verbal conversation in a few years? What happened to direct eye contact when speaking? Are my children going to suffer some sort of damage to their eyes and thumbs from texting and such? Should I be concerned about the waves of whatever comes from cell phones because they ALWAYS have their phones near their bodies?”
I recently saw an article about sleeping with the phones near our heads, which made a lot of sense. It claimed that the phones caused increased brain activity, even when not in use. That may be good or bad. I am concerned if it is bad. Because my children and I all use our cell phones as an alarm clock, they had been sleeping with their phones on their beds beside their heads, sometimes under their pillows.
I also had a friend in the medical field who explained to me that she did not allow her sons to have a cell phone until after puberty. The reason being: Where do boys carry their phones? They keep them in their pockets, which happens to be near the reproductive organs. If a cell phone’s signal can penetrate through a cement wall, it can certainly send waves through the human body.
            Since I am not sure, and it is a risk I do not want to take, we no longer sleep with our phones so close. I suppose that is a subject which needs to be looked into a bit further . . .

            On an equally important scale, I must ponder the communication aspect. My sixteen year old daughter has a Facebook AND she is a texter. Both of my daughters have an I-TOUCH, and seem to stay glued to it if I don’t say, “Put that down. I want to see your eyes!”
            Last night, we had a get-together at my house. About an hour before people began arriving, I walked into the living room to see a room full of four people; my two daughters, their dad and one extra child. The four of them were not interacting with one another, but intently doing some focused work on their handheld devices. I was saddened because it was supposed to be a family event to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday. Granted, they were all as happy as they could be; but they were not doing any form of family bonding. The bonding has increasingly been obtained by handheld gadgets. Angry Birds gets the family time now.

            Have you ever been in a room full of people, yet feel by yourself? Everyone sits quietly engaging in something on a screen in their hands. We can laugh, but really . . .  it is not funny. I have done that too. I have attempted to carry on a conversation with someone in front of me, and while I should be politely looking at him or her . . . I am looking at my phone and simultaneously talking via text message to someone else. The message I am sending to the person in my presence, “Hold on, this person is more important than you. I am not respecting you or our time together. I will get to you at my convenience.”
                 As parents, we really need to teach our children, (and use the same manners) the importance of NOT staying on their phones while visiting other people. It is so rude and uncomfortable for the other person to deal with a child who stays on his/her cell phone while visiting. It is the parent's job to explain that to their children.
               Have we all turned into robotic, computerized people? Do we not enjoy quality time with our loved ones? Are we bored with people in general? Why do we care so much about what is posted on our Facebook wall or what someone’s status is?
            Besides all that, there lies the fact that tone cannot be heard in written form and more misinterpretations happen that way than if we simply spoke to people. Then, I think about how sad it is that I have so many priceless keepsakes of written cards and letters that my children will not have. They do not pass notes anymore, they send a text. I expressed my saddness to my children and my oldest daughter immediately had her boyfriend write her a letter! E-cards are great and quick, but we lose the ability to keep them as well as seeing individual handwriting. We all need to write letters and send cards via THE POSTAL SERVICE instead of through the computer.
That brings us to the Facebook discussion. This may rub the faithful Facebookers the wrong way. It’s just food for thought.
My Facebook history is as follows: I opened an account about three years ago. Once I got the hang of it, I LOVED it! I posted my thoughts or what I was doing as well as pictures of what I had recently done. When one of my “friends” would comment, I felt kind of important and special. I got a few friend requests and sent a few; making it up to about 155 people. Some people rank their popularity on how many Facebook friends they have, but I kept my settings private and only accepted people I knew. I even programmed it to go to my Blackberry so I could keep up with everyone. All day long, I checked my phone or quickly clicked on my FB page on my computer as I walked by it. I could get lost in it for hours.
Then, life dealt me some lemons and I didn’t want to be questioned as I changed my “relationship status” and removed pictures I had so pride fully posted. So, I closed my account in order to avoid feeling like I needed to answer to 155 people about my situation. About nine months later, I reopened my account and shaved my friend list down to 50 people. That was when my eyes were really opened . . .
I realized I had given access to my life to people I knew in grade school. How did I know they had not matured into people I would not be comfortable with now? What made me think that our 4th grade friendship secured who they presently are?
As I maintained my account to share pictures with close friends and family, I began to get friend requests. The strange thing was; if I did not accept, some people sent numerous requests. Through the computer, they INSISTED that we needed to be “friends.” I had decided to have only females in order to avoid any issues like the numerous ones I had seen arise due to Facebooking. However, one of the friend insisters was a female from my high school days. She and I were never close friends. In fact, she didn’t even like me in school. I saw her in person recently. She did not speak. I never figured out why she wanted to be my computer friend so badly now . . .
Also, if I did not accept friend requests from close friends, some people really got offended. That is incredibly odd to me. If someone has my phone number and visits my house . . . why is the FB relationship more important. Just call me and or come by. We will look through my photo albums and I will TELL you my thoughts.
Once I had reopened my account, I began to notice that many people stayed connected to Facebook 24/7, but in various ways. Some of us post our every move, “____ is going to the bathroom.” Or, “______ is frustrated…”
Others have constant updates on our accomplishments with our farms or Mafia Wars. How can we possibly be getting anything done when each day holds proof of the diligent work throughout each day playing these games?
Then, I came to realize there are the silent Facebookers. Those of us fitting this description stay on it all day, every day . . . but never comment or post. Kind of like Facebook Stalkers. Possibly, this represents a social life for some of us.

As I have been in the company of many people, I have begun to have a great concern. Some people cannot sit through a conversation without checking on their FB. Their conversations revolve around what they saw or read on Facebook. Many times, it is used to look up people the Facebooker does NOT like. That is a technique that most all of the teenagers do too. They say, “Oh my goodness! LOOK at these pictures.” Or, “Look what she wrote and what he commented.”
It is like a gossip instigator and lure.

I also cannot get a grasp on how spouses began talking on Facebook walls. They live in the same house and talk through FB. Sure, I can see a funny picture comment or a “Happy Birthday Honey” message . . . but hopefully a gift and kiss are still given at home in person. Now, I am beginning to wonder . . .
As the months have passed, I have noticed changes in at least three of my close friends. We always had close, connected relationships and verbally spoke often. Now, they are too busy to return my, or anyone’s calls or even make a, “Hello, how’s everything going?” call. In fact, they cannot even return a text. I would have to go to their FB and check who is online to see if they have their chat on just to find them and communicate at all. YET, there is enough time for a daily Facebook status posting. There is some strange release in posting to the cyber world. I assume it is a “disconnect” from reality and an opportunity to communicate at 100% personal convenience.

Last night, my friends and I were discussing the technology issues. They were bringing up the lack of direct eye contact during verbal conversations and began discussing their irritation with basic phone etiquette . . . because there is NONE. The cell phones stay with the bodies just as though they are another limb. Even my twelve year old always has hers nearby AND can keep up with it better than a twenty dollar bill.
If people are out to eat, or simply having dinner and the phone rings, another person is brought to the dinner table because most people always answer their phones. I am guilty of that, especially if my kids are away from me and they call. I will pay closer attention from now on. At least we can excuse ourselves and step away from the dinner table if the call is that important.
Another point brought to the table last night was about the young children. I mentioned how many times we will notice how quietly a child sits and we comment, “Wow, that child is so well behaved,” because they are not running around acting like a kid. Looking a little closer, one will see that the child is in a habitual state and glued to a DS game. AKA: The babysitter.
The bottom line is that as parents, what we are doing is all dressed up, but can be stripped down to pure and simple: neglect. Our kids are sitting silently because they have given up on trying having a discussion with mom or dad. Adults get so lost in “important” things and the child gets, “SSSHHHHH!!!”  It is easier to buy them a new game so we can do what we need to do. Not cool.

I no longer have a Facebook because I caught myself being entirely too connected and reaping no benefits. I still see the fun and good, but it is just not for me right now. I don't see it as bad, it is just like any other thing and is okay when used in moderation. The most simplistic question we can ask ourselves would be, "Do I know more about what is going on with my FB friends than my own children, family and friends?" If so, we may have stumbled upon a problem. Though I do not have a FB, I am not so impressively flawless and do have my other downfalls, which keep me distracted as a parent . . .
I write a lot and I am extremely focused when I am at the computer. That is when my kids get Shhhh-ed. They know by default to go do their own thing because mom may as well be in another country when she’s writing. Guilty as charged. I have made an attempt to do as I have done today, and do my typing while my kids are at school and give them my time when they are home. I even have another cell phone that I use in case of emergencies. I turn my main one off and just keep the extra one. The people who may need me have that number and everyone else can wait a little while until my girls have been tucked in bed for the night.

           At the end of our discussion last night, my friends and I even entertained the amusing challenge it would be to have a group of people get together and the focus of the event be, “Time with family and friends. NO CELL PHONES ALLOWED.”
No one would be allowed to have their phones and would be forced to socialize with the other people in the room. We wondered how many people could make it through a friendly visit WITHOUT their treasured cell phone. We may need to have a person on call to medically help deal with the cell phone withdrawals! I am not sure what happens when a cell phone is removed from one's custody!!

I am making an effort to reconnect with my children and friends the old fashioned way. I do not want my beautiful girls to be unable to carry on a healthy conversation with me or their peers because they only know how to talk with their fingers. At least they are getting in some reading time as they read the texts. That’s about like saying that chocolate is good and healthy because it has milk in it . . .
According to one statistic, the good that is coming from this wonderful hand-eye coordination of phones and handheld games is great pilots. We are going to need a lot of planes . . .

(I need to reopen my FB account so I can post on my status that I have a new blog . . . J)

Just thinking,

1 comment:

  1. I loved it! This one is going to make a lot of people think about their family time!

    Also, I love your signature, 'Just thinking':)