I went to the famous rock club The Whisky a Go Go recently for one of my clients that I booked there, and I got talking to someone that really made me think about something important. This person stated to me, and I quote, “I’m sorry. I’m very–uh, socially awkward!” Wow! Now, I admit, when I was a teenager, I may have been a bit socially awkward too, by getting nervous around other kids that really impressed me. But, I would never tell them that I was socially awkward. Now, I suppose I could respect the fact that this person was at least self realizing enough to recognize this, and even brave enough to admit it. However, I have also learned over the years, that what we put our attention on, is usually what we get. If you go around telling everyone that you are socially awkward, well then, chances are, you probably will be. And even if you are not, and people are informed that you are, well then they will probably tend to think you are. The words we say and hear have power. Choose your words wisely. Speak of that which you wish to be. I’m not saying to go around lying and introducing yourself as a billionaire or superstar if you are not, but certainly don’t demean yourself to others, or to yourself.
While modern technology has brought us many great things, it has also sadly eroded the intelligence of the average person. Note that I state average. I am not talking about the un-average, I am talking about the normal, usual, average person. Also notice that I didn’t just state the young person or today’s teenager. I don’t think its fair to single out an entire generation with generalities. I hated when people did that when I was a teenager, and I don’t believe in that now. There are some exceptional, un-average teenagers that do not fit into any statistical attempts at defining their generation. And there are people of every generation whose intelligence or learning growth has been eroded– not just teenagers– due to new technology.
Take driving for example. A large number of people text and drive, or at least talk on their cell and drive. This alone has caused more traffic accidents and fatalities throughout the world. This is stupid. Yet, like drunk driving, it still keeps happening. So called smart phones in general, have taken what was already a major distraction when at home–the internet on home computers, and turned it into a non stop distraction at home, school, work, at play, literally anywhere and everywhere.
So called social media, which should actually be called anti-social media, has further eroded social development by addicting the masses to a digital, artificial reality of so called friends. People get upset when their so called FaceBook friends don’t ‘like’ their comments quick enough, or forbid, not at all. Going outside and actually engaging with real human beings face to face has become the exception, not the norm.
At parties, concerts, and other social or public events, places where people used to meet, mingle, and make friends has largely become places where room fulls of socially inept loners nervously fidget with their phones, pretending to stay busy. Apps for engaging with someone live with their faces on streaming video, has removed the need for some, the desire to even see a person face to face in real life, cutting down the three dimensional reality of a live human being in the flesh and blood before someone, to a mere video capture of them that can of course, always be manipulated, or hacked for the world to see.
Concert photography, once limited to valid, professional photographers, has denigrated to bands and most venues letting everyone take pictures of the artist at any time during the shows, which has resulted in the destruction of a natural crowd in the moment, enjoying the scene, to a crowd of wanna-be photographers and wanna be videographers destroying the vibe with their arms raised in the air, and bright cell lights illuminating what should be a dark concert hall, just waiting to get home and upload it to share with their other so called friends.
News stations and newspapers, who used to fact check and have journalistic standards, now simply copy verbatim, stories published on amateur blog sites written by people with no experience, and pass it off as news. When the mainstream, supposed respectable news sources don’t completely duplicate lies and posit its legitimacy, they get so scholarly as to tell us, ‘This story has not been verified for authenticity,’ yet report it anyway.
People, reading and watching news online, often consider it infallible. If its online, it must be true, some think. On the contrary, if it is online, it might ‘not’ be true, and one should find out as to whether it is real or not, by scholarly fact checking, themselves. And yet, only some of the college educated, properly taught how to do professional research, know how to find out the truth of something, based on scientific research. Thus, masses of people getting some, most or even all of their news from the internet are deluded into not knowing what is real, and having a false sense of truth and reality.
Laws against slander and libel, which used to be enforced in hard copy press, have no bearing in the digital domain, where anonymous hacks can call persons rapists, murderers, or criminals, whether true or not, and get away with it under the guise of freedom of speech. Criminal run blogs can extort money from attacked victims on their libel sites, and the government, busy committing their own crimes, does nothing.
Privacy violations, made publicly aware with the NSA computer spying, (popularized by rebels including Bradley Manning and Julianne Assange), which have always existed since computers existed, reminded us all that there largely is no privacy any more. Department stores, shopping centers, convenient marts, stop signs, traffic lights, and street corners often have cameras, recording our every move. Companies such as Google are simply like another branch of the government, used to monitor, and modify public opinion. Companies including FaceBook conducts social experiments to control what information gets posted in users ‘timelines,’ to control their mood, and monitor and sway their buying habbits.
Lastly, live social interaction has not only become more ‘awkward’ for multiple generations of internet addicted victims, it has declined. “People don’t go out more,” one hipster told me not long ago. “I can’t get my friends to leave the house,” another said, “They’re too lazy. They’d rather stay home and be on the internet.” All of this inactivity, has turned a generation of ‘couch potatoes,’ that at least used to get up once in a while, in to cross generational internet junkies, that don’t even need to leave home to go shopping. Countless record stores and book stores have shuttered their doors, going out of business, as movies and music are hacked or downloaded online, and new generations of children get fatter and fatter, not only becoming a social disgrace to be mocked and laughed at by the kids lucky enough to not get fat, but even worse, becoming a health casualty getting major diseases due to poor diet and inactivity. Presidents’ wives take on America’s ‘fat epidemic,’ yet meanwhile, the same administration pushes to get computers in every home and school; as the arts, sports, and science classes get cut from educational programs nationwide, and cursive is dreadfully eliminated.
The failure to communicate with people in person has further– resulted in a fear of people, leading to increased anxiety, stress, paranoia, and ultimately, violence. Idiots that have been dumbed down by TV, video games, and worse, chat rooms or social media, get in ‘flame wars,’ or simply begin engaging in ‘cyber bullying,’ leading to suicide among adolescents and teens.
Becoming bored, depressed, tense, or uneasy, tweaked out internet junkies get diagnosed by quack psychiatrists with the next new label, and doped up on the latest psychiatric pill peddled by Big Pharma. This of course, leads to more depression, violence, suicide, homicide, and those ever popular school shootings.
So while technology certainly has its good points, its points of abuse are not difficult to find. The moments when people introduced themselves with lines like, “I’m sorry, I’m uh, really socially awkward,” should be relegated to comedic films, not real life. Clearly, things need to change. So readers, I dare you, if you don’t already, pick a day, perhaps a Sunday or any other day you can, and avoid the cell phone. Avoid the internet. Stay off the computer. Stay away even from any other phone or T.V. and video games. Get outside. Meet people face to face. Demand they look at you instead of their phone. Make them listen. Listen to them. Shake some hands. Give a hug. Go climb a mountain. Swim in the Ocean. Take a walk in a park. Touch some trees. Enjoy nature. And leave– if for not longer– at least for one day, your phone and internet connection at home. And who knows, maybe one of these days, I just might un-plug things myself for longer than a few hours (after making the next issue here you must NOT miss) and join you.
– Bruce Edwin
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