MANSFIELD: The Downside of Texting

While I don’t want to come off as a latter-day Luddite (I know that technology always expands, never contracts and will continue to do so no matter how I or anyone else feels about it), there is clear evidence that what we call “progress” sometimes has downsides. A cartoon I recently saw (one that I had thought of having someone draw a few years ago) features two young women walking side-by-side in a mall, texting each other instead of just talking.

But while the fact of what these young women are doing is absurd, the bigger issue is that more people don’t see the absurdity in their behavior, and that’s downright mindboggling. Silicon Valley now rules.

Not that I don’t see the utility of texting, I do, and I use it myself on a daily basis. But I realize its shortcomings, its lack of ability to convey nuance in conversation. While texts like “I’ll call you right back” or “I’m running 10 minutes late” are a perfect use of this medium of communication, it does not lend itself to the long form of expression.

Another great use of text is images and videos. However, over the years I’ve witnessed the devolution of this utility also. Now I am receiving all sorts of weird and nonsensical texts. One of the latest I’m receiving from multiple sources is the one about flu shots. Some wacko conspiracy theorist(s) has come up with the notion that the government has hatched a plot to give people cancer via flu shots. But it gets better: now all of the doctors who know about this diabolical plan are dead.

Here’s the classic trick of conspiracy theorists’ fallback position: If you ask any of them why someone doesn’t go to the authorities, the answer always is, “Because the authorities are in on it too.” Ergo, no one can be trusted. The only problem with this conspiracy theory is, to keep it quiet would require that virtually all of the doctors all over the world would have to be killed.

Again, on the upside, someone sent me a video of a cockatiel that sits on the edge of a couch and bounces up and down and spread its feathers magnificently to its favorite songs, proving the old adage that music is indeed universal. It was truly a treasure to see one of God’s creatures unabashedly having so much joy.

But again, on the down side, I keep getting proselytizing messages from Christians admonishing me to pray to the God they worship in spite of the fact I’m agnostic. They send me these chain texts that border on threats of roasting in Hell if I don’t forward their message to 20 or 30 people. Enough with this religious bullying already. When I receive these text messages from them I’m already in Hell.

Additionally, societies advance via procreation. The birthrate has to be sustained or humans will go out of style, like dinosaurs, leaving the planet to other life forms, which just may not be such a bad idea considering how much we’ve fucked things up for other species.

However, in order to procreate young people have to have sex; and in order to have sex (other than forced rape or meaningless hookups), young people have to be able to court, to get to know each other face-to-face, and then couple. That’s how babies are made. They can’t have sex simply by sending crude pics of their genitalia to each other.

My point is, technology is corrupting the social skills of many young people. We’re raising a generation of folks that are more comfortable looking at a screen than looking at each other. Or looking for oncoming traffic as they cross the street, or attempt to drive an automobile. We all have witnessed distracted drivers, people who are looking at their phones instead of the road. I just hope I’m not killed by one of these idiots.

But my biggest pet peeve is folks who sit in a meeting and, instead of paying attention to the matter at hand, their eyes are glued to their mobile devices. They think they are staying engaged with the meeting because they are “multitasking,” but every study has shown that the brain simply doesn’t work that way. You can do two things at the same time, but you’ll be doing both of them badly. It’s like a monkey walking on its hind legs — yes, it can be done, but it’s not a pretty sight.

So, when the day comes that Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes over the planet and turns the table on us humans and makes us the slaves instead of the masters (indeed, the conditioning process is already taking place), you can’t say that you were not forewarned.

From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.

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