Monday, September 07, 2009

Tech not Touch


The Beatles had it right... " Ah look at all the lonely people, where do they all come from?" and " Where do they all belong?" I was sitting at a table at the Napa Valley Coffee Roastery today, and everyone was pecking away at their keyboards fixated on their monitors, sipping thier fresh Latte's parked precariously next to their laptops. No one was talking with one another. An elderly lady came and sat down at the table next to me and remarked to her friend that people aren't making any effort to chat with one another in a casual fashion any more. I overheard this, and pulled the earbuds out of my ears and turned off my IPhone. I was embarrassed to be a part of this all too obvious picture of uban life in 2009.

From the corner of the room a young college age woman was answering her cell phone... " Hello ? Hello? " Yes, wait... I've got it here." She furiously scrambled to fish a flash drive out of her purse to plug into her laptop. " Yes, the file is in .pdf format, so I can read it on my Mac." Isn't it great to be so efficient and tech-saavy I thought.
All of this zippy equipment that is supposedly going simplify our lives; And all it seems to be doing is impressing little old ladies who seem oddly out of place and hopelessly out of the loop. No one even looks up from their screen to acknowledge anyone else at the nearby tables. It reminded me of the indifference exhibited in that scene from the movie "The Time Machine" where all these beautiful people were sitting around picnicking as someone falls into a river and drowns. No one even bothers to notice. We all may as well have been in separate cubicles. Occasional spurts of intense concentration was the order of the day.

Non-verbal, and mostly unconscious signals like these only serve to isolate ourselves from others. I am certain that this is how it looked from this elderly woman's point of view. Many mobile devices these days are such a bloody fa├žade. A blue-tooth device that sticks in your oh-so-self-important ear seems to say, "Excuse me," I am in the middle of a conversation that is more important than anything you have to tell me. So,even if what you have to tell me is that my car is getting ticketed outside... buzz off !

These laptops, cell phones, Ipods and blackberries are creating barriers between us. If this scenario actually happened, I imagine it would be a wonderful lesson to those that were observed by that woman and her friend. People are missing the opportunity to make themselves available for friendly conversations with other human beings. Hmmm... perhaps this is because we are all just too busy getting ahead.

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