Almost every day, I hear parents and grandparents and people on television complain about how cellphones, smartphones, texting, streaming, Facebooking, tweeting and computer games are turning our children into little unsocial robots who won't be able to function in the real world. The real world of cellphones, smartphones, texting, streaming, Facebooking, tweeting and computer games.
And do you think you could get a job in today's world by bragging on your resume that you don't know how to text and don't use email?
What's odd is that people on television and the people who watch it never seem to blame television itself for turning us into antisocial robots. Do you watch TV during dinner? Do you watch TV in the bedroom? Is there a lot of talking going on while you and/or your spouse watch a four-hour football game? Have you ever tried having a conversation with someone who is watching "SportsCenter"? Do you blab all the way through "NCIS: Wherever" and "Dancing With the Stars You Never Heard Of"?
Do you talk all the way through movies you are watching? If you do, most people would rather you texted.
But that's not always true, either. Recently, some guy shot another guy dead for texting during a movie. As if texting during a movie is rude, but shooting someone to death for texting during a movie isn't.
"Whatever happened to talking to each other?" I hear people ask, as if every word they say is some kind of rare pearl, which comes only from a one-of-a-kind oyster that lives in a remote ocean off a faraway land. In reality, their own last, very social words were, "Have you seen the remote control? It was right here a second ago."
Is that a quote from Plato? Marcus Aurelius? Dante? Shakespeare? Shaw? Such elevated conversation, the kind that people who text and talk on their smartphones will never be able to have because they won't have learned any of the social skills that people who grew up without smartphones and "Candy Crush" did.
My friend, Marv, is one of those who think that cellphones, texting and email are turning us into a nation of tech idiots. I was behind him at the checkout line of the supermarket last week. After first asking the clerk why two avocados cost $4.12, and then explaining that the price of the sauerkraut on the shelf was different than the price on the flier, he pulled out his wallet and found the exact bills he needed. Then he scrounged around in his pockets to find the exact change. After about 30 seconds, it turned out he didn't have the exact change, so he put all his money back and pulled out a big bill and handed it to the cashier.
In the other lane, while all this was going on, two 20-somethings waved their smartphones at something on the counter and walked out with their purchases in 2 seconds. No printed receipt, no conversation, no polite chitchat with the cashier, no social interaction at all. Just what you'd expect from antisocial tech heads -- so unlike Marv, who was engaging the young clerk with real conversation. Behind me, some woman kept tapping her foot like she was in some kind of rush.
Just as Marv gets his receipt, she says into her cellphone, "My water just broke," and the cashier, a 16-year-old boy, said, "You want to go back and get another?"
Marv snorted his indignation. "In my day," he said, "a clerk would have gone and gotten that lady another water. Manners -- I guess there's no app for that!"
Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.