Written By Sherwood Kohn
Several eons ago, when I was a teenager, I drove my parents nuts by tying up the family telephone for what they claimed was “hours,” talking to my friends (mostly girls).
Now, almost every teenager has his or hers own cellphone and can usually be seen, on almost any occasion at virtually any hour of the day, totally transfixed by it.
The problem is, as us old folks see it, that the kids appear to be isolated by their phones, to the exclusion of all social interaction.
It is not only disturbing that these children appear to have cut themselves off from the rest of the world, but that their isolation at social and family gatherings is often so rude that one is sorely tempted to wave one’s hand between the teenagers’ gaze and the digital object, just to test the extent of their absorption; or, for that matter, to let them know that they are being impolite.
“Connectivity” is the trendy word for the phenomenon, but the actuality is anything but. Instead, many people (mostly teenagers) are now connected in the most superficial, trivial way; most of it on the level of graffiti, and about as communicative.
Which brings us to the character of actual communication. What is it?
“Communication” implies substance; the imparting of humanness, of intelligence and emotion, as well as data.
Of course, we are deluged with data on a daily, even hourly, basis; most of it subject to interpretation, as well as sometimes being useful for supporting logic.
My point is that most iPhone messages (vocal as well as text) are on that level; meaningful only to the senders and receivers of raw data; extremely personal and uninformative to anyone seeking knowledge of the nature of man and his environment.
Not that one should expect philosophical depth as a result of casual conversation. That is expecting too much. For the most part, deep thought is the province of art and great thinkers.
It is doubtful that great thought is capable of being transmitted via cellphone, unless the digital device is being augmented by a great thinker. Which argues that the cellphone is a very limited mechanism.
If that is true, the future of the cellphone is about the same as that of the telephone, i.e., as a conveyor of raw data, rather than of significant thought, like a book.