Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Let's Talk

Nokia, from library
Nokia 3210 - Guardian Online, 2015
What happened to conversation? Why are we so immersed in [the] online that we no longer have the time nor the skills to start up a conversation with a stranger? And what can we do to engage with 'reality' again?

Perhaps you remember the days before 'the smartphone' - incidentally these are now the norm - perhaps you don't. Perhaps you were born knowing how to use the camera on a phone, or apps on a tablet, or maybe, you have had to learn with the technological development - but whichever side of the digital age you were born on, at some point, you will have undoubtedly been introduced to the consumption of a digital device. 

When I consider the amount of time that I spend on an electronic device of some kind - be it phone, laptop or tablet - I'm horrified. From the ringing of my alarm, to the reminder to start my fasting app, the engagement in WhatsApp conversations in numerous groups to writing uni assignments, whether we like it or not I live in the age of the gadget. No matter how hard I try for my family to be device free of an evening when we get home from school and work, somewhere along the line, either my partner is glued to his mobile device, my son is watching television, or I am engaging in my 'Mothers' Meeting' chat on WhatsApp. I would love, absolutely love to break free from the shackles of technology for a week... I'm just not brave enough. If I want to know the answer to a question, or want to find the best place to go for lunch in an unfamiliar place, I take my phone out and 'Google' it. 
What time is the local pool open? Google it. Has my son got Forest School today? WhatsApp it. Need inspiration for garden landscaping on a budget? Pinterest it. Everything is at my fingertips. 

But is all of this technology making us lazy? Kids are making friends with strangers online, which of course has its own issues, but as a society we have lost the art of conversation. We are consumed in conversations with our 'smart speaker' (which in the not so distant future will go in the same direction as the smartphone/phone and become known simply as a speaker) that it is easier to communicate with someone in a different room through a device rather than physically going and striking up the conversation. This is some Black Mirror shit.  The first mobile phone I had as a teenager was a Pay As You Go Nokia 3210. It didn't have a camera, nor did it send messages over WiFi - in fact at this point most households that were lucky enough to have internet access were on dial-up. To send a text you had 459 characters, which included any spaces, and were generally charged at 10p per message - if you went over to 460 characters, you were charged the cost of two text messages. Generally, you would only send a text if you were confirming plans with a friend... after all, you would actually be able to tell them everything when you saw them!

I fear for kids growing up in a digital age. With the dangers of social media, online bullying, the concept of catfishing and the very fact that the internet is plastered with our personal information. A persons career could hand on the balance of what they have previously posted on Facebook or Instagram. We have become a generation of mutes, our thumbs do the talking - I wonder whether trigger-thumb and carpal tunnel syndrome have become more common medical issues in the past ten years.

However, with each negative that has come from the emergence of the digital age there must be a positive, right? You can have a (virtually) instant conversation with someone without having to have a phone glued to your head for an hour - no more crick neck from cradling the phone and also no more interruptions once the kids have gone to bed and all you want to do is watch the Great British Bake Off. Internet banking...  no wait, mobile banking is just so bloody convenient - no more cheques ('whoooooooooooooooo?') or having to go into the bank to move money around. Weight loss apps - (does this one count?) I have so many of them promising to help me lose weight and yet I still can't lick that one down (although I guess I can't really blame an app for my downfalls). Oh, and the fact that you have every little thing at your fingertips - so much information that I can even find out pointless information about what the longest word in the English language is (it's pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis by the way). I might just share the longest word in my WhatsApp groups - see, knowledge is power 😉

Over and out.



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Let's Talk

Nokia 3210 - Guardian Online, 2015 What happened to conversation? Why are we so immersed in [the]  online that we no longer have the tim...