Do you suffer from FOBO?

Do you get the shakes when you haven't checked your email in the last 30 seconds?

Have you ever checked Facebook in church? In the shower? On a first date? While making love? Have you ever attended a concert where they ask you to turn off your cellphone, but you just put it on vibrate instead? Has a flight attendant ever had to tell you more than once to put away your cellphone during takeoff? Have you ever asked a stranger to call your phone to make sure it's working because you haven't gotten an alert for two minutes? Do you panic when you think you left your phone charger on your last Uber ride?

These are the dreaded warning signs of FOBO, the Fear Of Being Offline -- a syndrome that has no known cure. Then again, maybe it's perfectly normal.

Much has been written about how social media has changed young people's lives, and not for the better. We read about the bullying, the divorces and the sexting, and the talking heads wonder: Where will it all end? In the complete breakdown of society as we know it? Or just in utter chaos and confusion, a horror movie come to life?



Every new type of communication since written history began has been denounced as the end of mankind as we know it, including the writing down of history.

"Why on Earth would we possibly need written history?" I can hear ancient leaders asking their minions. "We don't need our children knowing about all the bad things we did before they were alive. Just write down the stuff that makes me look good. You know, 'His Glorious Majesty, the Greatest of the Great, blah, blah, blah...'"

Sure enough, that's about what half the Egyptian hieroglyphs say, as well as most of the monuments in today's dictatorships.

And censorship followed the written word in short order. After Gutenberg started printing less expensive (but still not cheap) books, banning and burning books that some leader objected to became a regular thing. People are still trying to ban books all the time, right here in the Land of Free Speech -- the American Library Association keeps a current list of them -- and yet "Fifty Shades of Grey" still tops the best-seller list.

The world may be crasser, but it has not come to an end.

When the telegraph and telephone came along, there were plenty of people who thought those inventions were the worst things that ever happened. Most of them were check bouncers and scam artists who could no longer simply move to the next town and start over, because a telegram would beat them there. But there were many who really thought those tools would change the world for the worse.

A hundred years after the invention of the phone, most parents thought the idea of a teenager having a phone in her bedroom (the boys didn't seem to care that much), where they couldn't eavesdrop on the call, was the silliest idea to come down the pike. The Princess phone broke that logjam forever. Now it's hard to find a child without his own phone.

And still, the world did not end.

TV has been pervasive since the early 1950s. For 65 years, people have been complaining that it's too sexy, or it glamorizes bad behaviour, or its politics are unfair. I practically make a living whining about how bad TV is, how toxic it is, what a bad influence it is on our culture. It's so bad that I can only watch it 10 hours a day. After that, I binge-drink.

And now the slick, grown-up, all-knowing Internet has come to wreck all that has come before, to destroy all that was good and holy, to corrupt our children and steal our souls.

Or maybe it's just the latest Gutenberg.

Today's Other Stories



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