Regina G Beach

The only constant is change.

Electronic Loneliness 

I’ve been sorting through a lot of old things lately and came across a series of essays from 2003-2004. I thought they deserved to see the light.

We live in a fast-paces world filled with high-tech gadgets. Everything from borrowing books and the library, to checking out groceries at the supermarket is done with the help of computers. Gone are the days where a simple telephone all to a store or business was answered by a live human. Our lives are automated and computerized and what we save in time and convenience, we lose in human interaction. As the global community comes closer together, individuals grow father and farther apart. Due to a lack of human interaction the world is becoming a more sterile, dehumanized place. 

A time will come when checkout personnel will be an obsolete job title. Automated teller machines efficiently spit out tens and twenties without ever trying to make small talk. At the library, automated card catalogues know the precise location of every book and self-check-out machines mean even the library is becoming a quieter, less friendly place. At the grocery store, half the lines are dedicated to self-checkout lines. Instead of employing cashiers and bag boys, patrons and do everything themselves while under the carful watch of the self-checkout supervisor, who was hired, not for the people skills she doesn’t appear to have, but for her extensive knowledge of the machinery she oversees. It’s the same when buying gasoline. Pay at the pump means quicker in and out and no more funny stories about the character who works behind the counter. 

I’m bothers by humanity’s tendency to avoid itself. People don’t want to interact with strangers, and it’s very easy not to have to. With modern conveniences it’s not implausible to never have to interact with another human being and get along just fine. People should not be content to go about their business without taking to other people. Face to face communication is so important, Everyone has an option. Everyone has thoughts, dreams, hopes, and fears, and yet, no one sares. I don’t think Id’ ever be inclined to share my deepest darkest secrets and with total stranger, but I do think it’s important to acknowledge people and the and theme out of our very busy lives to make small talk. 

Communication has become easier with the help of technology, but by no means more personal. Text messaging, e-mail, and instant messaging are cheap and easy alternative to a letter or a phone call. While it may be convenient, I find something very impersonal about sitting down at the computer, virtually opening my inbox, and sifting through junk mail in hopes of finding a personalized note from a friend. Receiving a piece of mail in the mailbox is a whole different story. I love physically being able to open the envelope and hold the letter in my hand as I read. Technology has mede the postal service seem slow, outdated, and a hassle. Technology has also turned the intimate art of letter-writing into a run-of-the-mill, time-saving, impersonal method of communication. I believe whole-heartedly that spending thirty-seven cents and a little bit of thought to brighten someone’s day is worth more than an e-greeting every could. 

Of course, technology today isn’t perfect. Every system has its flaws and will, on occasion, break down. Personal computers get virus and printer jam, among countless other technical problems that occur daily. New electronic equipment now often comes with instructions videos that discuss how the appliance works and what it can do but sometimes problems can’t be solved with a simple manual or video; that’s when it’s time to call tech-support. Tech support operators do everything in their power to make themselves as hard to reach as possible. Endless voice mail loops and menu options make struggling parties jump  through hoops before finally getting to a live person who then immediately puts you on hold for endless minutes, undoubtedly hoping that whatever technical problem prompted the call isn’t worth the effort to staying on the line. This example is technology at its worst, equipment that doesn’t work and a completely inefficient, impersonal way to fixing it. 

Science keeps producing bigger and better forms for technology. Everything is being digitalized, synthesized and downloaded to make our lives easier. I think it’s a shame that with the creation of so many modern conveniences, people can’t seem to remember how to interact with each other. I believe that technology causes more problems than I solves, the most tragic being the isolation of the people who depend on it.