What’s Up With all These Mobile Devices? Why Are People Resorting to Non-Talk Methods to Communicate?

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Soap Box Rants/Weekly Column

By Pamela Bratcher-McMillan, President, Chair & CEO, of PETAL et al.

What’s up with all these mobile devices? Why don’t people talk to each other anymore rather than using e-mails, text and other non-talk methods of communicating?

The other day, I noticed a table full of twenty-somethings all fooling around with their cell phones in one way or another. While waiting for their food to come to their table, they were either talking on the telephone or texting, failing to engage in conversation with each other.

There were five of them sitting at the table. Fortunately for them they were seated inside a restaurant with a low-level of noise. As I observed them and the interaction between them, I noticed that they were not making that much eye contact or communication with each other. Their heads were down looking at texts or turned sideways, as if to exclude the group from their phone conversation. It must have become too much for one of them. She decided to share her whole loud perky conversation with the rest of the restaurant patrons as if to say, “I have something interesting going on in my life, too, and someone is willing to listen to me even if you aren’t.” As soon as the food came, phones were placed near some of their plates as though they didn’t want to miss out on anything.

Has social networking cultivated us into a society of shallow individuals? When did texting replace a voice conversation? What about focusing on the people you are with at the time? One of the worst things about receiving a text is constantly having to keep texting people back to make sense of their text messages. What a waste of time. We could have gotten it done quicker with a phone call. I’d rather not tie up my time constantly texting people back to explain their cryptic messages.

Now, it has carried over to professional correspondence with truncated words and acronyms. Really? Is this the result of the know-it-all generation? In the midst of what they call the “Dumbing down of America,” we are living in times whereas cowards use these tools to bully people and offer others really bad advice. Children are raising children on social networks. Many people are getting advice from strangers. Do you really trust a person you’ve only met via photo? Do you ever wonder how your young people seem to know someone in town no matter what town you happen to be visiting? We are living in some scary times.

Teachers are verbally challenged in the classroom and threatened with online searches not to confirm information, but in an attempt to prove “I know just as much or more than you as long as I have this mobile device. That device is supposed to take the place of storing something in your brain? That’s why when the online connectivity is not there, they will probably lose it. Are we becoming a culture of Cyborgs?

When the mobile phone became accessible to most people, it started off as a tool you used in emergency situations and sparingly, because calls and texting were so expensive. Now, we keep it fired up to pass the time away updating social networks and sending one liners back and forth to our friends. Our electronics have become our own little personal world where we do not have to deal with people. They are emotionless, often sending the wrong messages in their coldness and haste; which reminds me, why don’t people come outside anymore? Why is so much time spent indoors? What do you think?

Keep in mind that sending your children, parents, siblings, relatives and close friends an email from your tablet or a text letting them know that you are thinking of them does not replace the sound of your voice telling them those things, especially if you are in the same town. While mobile devices are a wonderful thing when used responsibly, we should show discretion on how we use those tools. That’s what they are…electronic tools that can never replace the human voice and human interaction.

Pamela Bratcher-McMillan is a technology expert and President, Chair & CEO, of PETAL et al.

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