Monday, April 13, 2015

A Baby Boomer's Lament

At the risk of offending my younger (make that much younger) friends and family, I just don't get this selfie thing; in fact, I don't understand the whole "smart" phone deal, either.

Sure, I use a cell phone to google some important piece of information (Who is the actress who stars in "Madame Secretary?), to call folks, to get directions, even to access my emails.

But I don't use my cell while I'm walking with a companion, having dinner with friends, or to take selfies anywhere I happen to be.  In fact, I don't take selfies at all.  I mean, okay . . . If I ran into, say, Gloria Steinem or Mary Karr, even a hunk like Paul Newman when he was still alive, I might be inclined.

But at an intimate dinner --- indeed, an anniversary outing --- with my husband?

That's exactly what happened a while back.  A young woman with long black hair and already tons of makeup, took out her mirror, combed her hair, blotted her lipstick and starting taking selfies while her husband sat there, silent.  I have to wonder what he was thinking.  Was this self-centered wife of his really so stuck on herself instead of him?

Call me old fashioned.  But don't people spend time together so they can share stories, worries, future plans?  You know, that age-old art of conversation?  If not, why do they bother spending time together at all?  

When we Boomers wanted to see a friend, we didn't put our phones on the table, available at a second's notice to answer a call, check an email, read a text.  

Okay, so we didn't have cell phones back then in the dark ages.  Ma Bell was still in business.  And if we needed to make an important call, we'd go to a pay phone or phone booth, put it our change, and dial.  And that we did in private, aside from those crazies who squeezed into a phone booth to set a Guinness record.

Our conversations were private to be shared with the person on the other end of the line.  We didn't want strangers on a bus or train or walking down the street to hear what we had to say.  And we certainly didn't want to be rude by talking on the phone when with friends or family.

Alas, I think society has gone around the bend with no chance to return.  Tech companies will continue to introduce even more devices, more apps, more programs to allow users to "plug in" anytime, anywhere.

My solution?  Declare a mandatory 24-hour moratorium on the use of any and all cell phones.  Those who break this "Day of Rest" will face a $100 fine.  Then we'll see a pause in the world of immediate gratification and maybe some face-to-face communication that encourages eye contact, a bit more privacy and, yes, a bit less invasive chatter.

The only problem:  A new class of addicted citizens who will require immediate care.

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