When we were growing up, we used a landline telephone to call friends and family. The annual Christmas phone call to England was awful as the line was terrible and costs outrageous. “Hello, how are you?” my aunty would ask. The delay was long. My answer: “What?” “Hello and how are you?” This from ten thousand miles away as I replied, at the same time, “Fine and how are you?” “What?” Pause. “How’s the weather?” “What?” “Fine and how are you? I better put mum back on now”.
You get the idea. As kids, we dreaded those Christmas catch-ups.
In those days, my country friends didn’t have their own landline. Instead, they used the community shared phone line where only one family could use the phone at once. My friend thought it good fun to pick up the phone and listen into various conversations only to be yelled at and told to “Get off the phone, right now”.
In years gone by, some families were lucky enough to own a typewriter but mostly we wrote cards and letters by hand. Spelling was important. Everyone sent Christmas cards and we used to display them in our lounge. It was a bit of a competition to see who got the most cards each year. When I moved into my own house, I saved each year’s cards up and paraded them with any new ones received. It looked like we had received a stack of Christmas cards every year, which we had not. Some of the cards were fifteen years old.
At school and at work, we had to walk across the room to talk to each other. Today’s technology means we no longer have to send cards or speak to anyone face to face unless we want to. Instead, we email the person sitting next to us. Today’s communication options are amazing. I love being able to speak to my mum and dad hundreds of kilometres away as though they are in the same room. It is incredible to have a same-time video conference with a colleague in Switzerland. It will be 8 am in the morning and four degrees Celsius over there, while we here are cooking through forty degrees and thinking about dinner and home. I go shopping then check the latest news, my bank accounts, fitness levels and tomorrow’s weather without getting out of bed. Fantastic.
Our children grow up without fear of technology. I saw a young child get angry when her dad’s mobile phone was taken off her. She couldn’t yet talk or walk but she knew how to turn the screen on and off and make the videos run. I have seen other kids fighting over an i-Pad both loudly demanding, “It’s my turn”. We want the next generation’s lives to be enhanced by devices. But what about the downsides?
There are reports of children getting repetitive strain injuries, sore eyes and hand from overuse of devices. There are stories of some kids growing horns off their spines from being hunched over too long. They prefer video games and virtual play for exercise and sport. Why travel to an actual tennis court and sweat when you can participate from the comfort of your couch, with chippies and soft drink close at hand?
There are serious traffic incidents as drivers text and talk on mobile phones while driving. People have stopped watching where they are going when out for a walk. They bump into each other then become cross at being made to look away from their phone. The latest Facebook posting is much more interesting than whether the little man at the lights shows red or green so even crossing the street has become tricky.
I have heard of young adults that will not be without their smart device. Phones accompany them on twenty minute toilet breaks as they sit in the dark, texting and searching the internet. Two people out for a romantic dinner no longer need speak, preferring to gaze lovingly at their phones. If they need to interact, they can send a message. Even the Queen has said she used to like seeing people’s faces but now there is just a sea of i-Phones waving at her.
Are we at risk of losing our wonderful ability to communicate altogether? Reading body language and feeling empathy towards another human may become ghosts of the past as we no longer have to look at each other. Challenge yourself with a variety of communication channels and enjoy the present moment.
Moderate time on devices.