We hear over and over these days how some marvelous new technological gadget will bring us together. From iPhones, Skype and YouTube to Facebook and Twitter, the mantra remains the same – “Stay connected!”
There are a lot of us who also use these same technologies to distance ourselves from others.
Take e-mail for example. Have you ever had a bit of unpleasantness with a friend and rather than meeting face-to-face or even phoning them, you instead tap out a quick impersonal e-mail. Confident the problem is solved; you are easily off the hook.
Facebook is an excellent way to stay tuned to what is going on in our circle of friends. Daily we learn of upcoming meetings, opinions or calls to action. But, as our circle expands, we become so inundated with opportunities to support worthwhile causes or attend urgent meetings that we automatically hit the “like” button and scroll on to the next news feed – a YouTube video of dancing dogs.
IPhone, with its e-mail and video functions, seems to be the ultimate connective tool. Messages and videos can be instantly uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, or a host of other services. Even video conferences are possible over these something-for-everyone marvels.
There remains in the world a group of people who do not function well in public situations. These are the folks who break into a sweat at the mention of the word “mingle.” At parties, they are the ones rooted at the food table, beer in one hand, stuffing canapés in their mouth with the other hand. Thus encumbered, they are spared the odious task of simple communication.
The iPhone turns out to be an excellent diversion for these silent types. I was recently at a dinner party with a dozen people seated at table, all trying to get a word in edgewise. One guest, however, did not join in the discussion and sat pushing bits of food around his plate.
Suddenly, grinning, he pulled out a shiny iPhone and immediately became lost in its multitude of applications. The man no longer felt the need to interact with his dinner companions. He had become an island unto himself thanks to his personal connection device.