Is the internet destroying personal interaction? With all the “social networks,” tweeting, texting, email, Skyping and Facebook, are we communicating less in the personal physical realm?
Cafes used to be a place to go and sit at the counter and strike up a conversation with someone next to you or the waitress behind the counter. A place where you and your friends found a booth to talk over a coffee or tea or some food. No more. The counter is gone, the waitress too busy and the patrons buried in their Macintoshes or made in China laptops. Go into any café today, we call them Starbucks now, and no doubt it will have wifi, usually free. Those sipping their $4 lattes and cappuccinos will be, with earplugs plugged in, staring into the screen of their laptop, oblivious to everyone and everything around them. They’re buried in cyberspace, MySpace – any place but the place they are physically present.
Where I live in Asia, every night, particularly on weekend nights, hundreds of thousands of the young of this nation are inside what is known as PC-bangs, (computer cafes) engaged in online cyber games. The online traffic some nights is so heavy that the physical lines used to transmit the digital information becomes so loaded, that videos and other data that is usually transmitted in a few seconds, takes several minutes and often times never comes through. The problem is so acute that the South Korean government has considered banning online access after midnight. One Korean couple spent so much time online raising a virtual baby, they neglected their real life newborn. All Fun and Games?
The same thing happens in the States – except there it is Fantasy Football.
Before the Internet became ingrained into our everyday life, football fans who dreamed of being personally involved in the game were relegated to watching games on television and imagining what it would be like to own a team and manage it. Now, with Fantasy Football, football fans can be virtual team owners in direct control of their team.
What’s happened to us?
When we do talk to each other, the topic of conversation is usually the trivial or the inane. Very few want to discuss topics of importance or controversy. See my How to Lose Friends and Piss Off Your Enemies. Any topic where there may be a difference of opinion, is off limits.
Except of course, if it’s intoxicated banter about which is the better sports team; disagreement there is quite all right, in fact, expected. “My team kicked your team’s ass” seems to be the one subject that can be discussed where disagreement is tolerated, even encouraged. Why? Because it doesn’t matter who is right. There is no right or wrong when it comes to one’s devotion to a sports team or entertainment idol. Opinions on these topics are of no import. Like the weather, they are “safe” topics for what passes these days as “discussion.”
But bring up an important topic, like who controls the media that is brainwashing us and our youth, or, who is behind the financial crisis affecting each of us, or God forbid, how far we’ve strayed from our Christian foundation, and you’ll be treated as if you just unleashed the latest faux influenza virus into the air that no one wants to inhale. Bring up a “right wing conspiracy” and you’ll be labeled a “kook” faster than a cockroach scurries for cover when exposed to light. Talk about ANYTHING except what is important.
Have you noticed that almost no one any longer says: “Gee, I never heard that before; that’s interesting. I’ll have to check that out.” Have you noticed no one cares enough about important subjects to ever ask questions like: “What makes you think that?” or “Where did you get that idea from?” or “Who told you that?”
These same individuals will know all about the latest news surrounding their favorite team, entertainment idol, or the newest electronic gadget they want to charge on their maxed out credit card.
With the ship sinking beneath us, with the building collapsing around us, it’s no wonder there is little or no civil unrest, save the Tea Partiers, who you couldn’t tell that Israel is a greater threat than our government without being dismissed as a hatemonger or a racist. They, like so many others, know SOMETHING is wrong, but shun reality like the “too big to fail” avoid bankruptcy.
We, as a people, are in deep trouble folks. Our reality, especially the reality of our youth, is becoming the world within the internet, the television, the iPods and the Walkmans. These escapes – like the world wide web – is not where solutions to the problems we face are going to be found. Solutions to the challenges we face are not floating around in cyberspace. The problems facing us are in the real world, the world where we live and move and have our being.
To get right down to it, the problems we face are indeed spiritual, but the resolution to those problems will not be found in the wifi ether of cyberspace.
We need to tackle our real world problems by connecting – by interacting – with real people in the real world.