Posted by: rhino7592 | March 14, 2010

Unsocial animals

2010 is well under way and as I have increasingly distanced myself from 2009, for better or for worse, I haven’t found the time or the topic that was worthy of putting fingers to keys. (pen to paper is so 1900s).  Truth be told, I am amazed that anyone is reading this drivel, but then again there are people out there who actually get paid for doing this very same thing.  A close friend, who indirectly put me on to blogging, said that I can’t get too caught up in who reads this, and that really shouldn’t be the point. Once again, for me, it’s the journey and not the destination.

My hometown got its first major snowfall in several years.  After a couple of false starts earlier this winter, we got some snow in earnest.  Now my Facebook page in inundated with pictures of snow-covered houses, and the obligatory snow men.  I know, I get it, the snow is neat, and if you have little kids, it’s a blast to see them experience it for the first time.  But the few people who have followed my blogs (I know there are some and I got the hit stats to prove it) know that I lived in the midwest for a few years of my childhood.  Snow is overrated.  It turns the average criminally deficient driver in SC to someone who should not be on the roads at all.  After the first five minutes of a snowball fight, your soaking wet and freezing.  And because this is South Carolina, you know it will probably be in the 60s three days from now…..but i digress.

The spark hit me full-on the other day.  I was driving home from work and texting my best friend to make some plans for the evening.  We go back and forth a few times.  Sending. Downloading. Sending. Downloading. And the shear stupidity of the exercise overwhelms me.  It has taking us five minutes to nail down plans that would have taken 30 seconds in a phone conversation, using the very thing I am HOLDING IN MY HAND.  It’s then when I realize, we are, by nature, a social animal, but when it comes down to it, we really don’t want to talk to each other.

Technology is pushing us down the unsocial path.  Cell phones are constantly getting more elaborate and a part of every day life.  I know several people who would drop dead of a stroke if they lost the ability to use their Crackberry.  They would just cease to function.  But the key thing about cell phones and there various capabilities, is that they allow us to control, and at times dictate, our relationships with others.

I worked in a profession where communication was vital to job success.  The advent of “push to talk” or direct connect (DC) really made things easier, and everybody had them.  When DC first came out, I thought: “Thats dumb, you just turned your phone into a walkie-talkie. I don’t want to do that”  ….but  then I used it.  I don’t know if it appealed to my man sensibility to get to the point, but  I fell in love with it.  You DC someone, say what you had to say, and you’re done.  Quick, easy.  No wasted banter, no awkward silences.  I spent years in Nextel land and most of my conversations where that way.

Looking back, I first thought that the appeal to most people who used DC was the minimalist and efficient nature of the conversation, but the more I think of it, I now believe it was just another way for anyone to dictate the terms of their own interaction with others.  When you DC someone, you just wanted your question answered and be done.  You don’t actually want to talk to the person.  Everyone has been next to someone who is having a DC conversation (on speaker, of course) and whoever they are talking to has breached the DC etiquette of “less is more” and gone off on some long-winded tangent.  What’s the guy next to you doing? He is holding the phone and shaking his head.  He might even tell you that he doesn’t give a fuck about what the other person is saying.  All he is waiting on is the other person to shut up, so he DC back and tell them he’ll talk to them later.   It’s all about control.

Years of DC affected the way I would talk on the phone.  In the past year, I changed phones and went to another provider.  The first phone conversation I had with someone, with who I would have normally communicated with via DC, was one of most awkward things ever.  It was like we didn’t know how to talk to each other on the phone.  This guy is one of my best friends and we can talk about anything at length when we are in the same room, but we couldn’t pull of a phone conversation.  It was sad, really.  Afterward, we both actually acknowledged how funny that conversation was.  I have since gotten back on Nextel and we are back to DC, so everything’s good.

Texting.  Is there anything that is more social yet antisocial all at the same time?  I am consistently fascinated by texting.  We have essentially taken the talking out of communication.  And, as my opening scenario suggested, I am just as guilty as anyone else.

I was slow to warm to texting much in the same way I was with DC.  It seemed like we are taking the key use of a cell phone (you know, actually talking to people) and making it obsolete.  At first I was the guy saying “I’ll never text, that’s just fucking dumb”  Now….I text  all the time and I don’t feel guilty about it.

When you think about it, texting is all about guilt free communication.  It is like the time you called someone at their house when you knew they wouldn’t be home and you left a message.  You didn’t actually want to talk to them, (hence the calling when you knew they wouldn’t be there) but you wanted to feel good about staying in contact. Wanting, but not wanting the contact all at the same time.  With texting, you are literally sending your message.  If the other party responds, great.  If not, well, you did your part.

As I have become a more active texter, I am more sensitive to its effects on our interactions with others.  I was out the other night with a handful of my close friends.  We were all sitting around talking and having a good time together, but we all had our phones out and were intermittently texting people who weren’t there.  This is not an isolated phenomenon.  The next time your are out in a bar or restaurant, look at the large groups around you.  There are going to be groups just like mine the other night.  Talking and texting. Texting and talking.

What does this say about us? That we enjoy our friends, but we would rather be with the person that we’re texting.  But, we don’t think enough of them to call them we would rather just send the text. (wouldn’t want to be rude to the people who were with right now)  I know, not everyone person you see texting in a large group is fighting that moral battle, but I would argue there are a lot that are.  Like I said before, I am not pointing any fingers, because I am just as guilty.

I won’t even get into the people who text people who are sitting at the SAME table. I will say this to all the ladies, talk your shit in the bathroom, like you used to do.

Next up I might tackle the self-important bastards and their blue tooth earpieces. Now I got to go, got some texting to do.



  1. You should really jump into twitter!

  2. Sending, downloading, sending, downloading AMEN!

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