Let me take this opportunity to apologize to anyone who has tried to contact me in the past year or two. I find myself disengaging from the “electronic age, available 24/7” mode of interaction. My email box runneth over with unanswered notes from friends, my cell phone (when I remember to turn it on) rejecteth innumerable calls (while all the rest go directly to voicemail), and I ignoreth my Facebook account. If you have chosen any of these means to contact me lately, you’ve quite possibly been left hanging. I used to be so good at using a telephone and interacting socially with other people. I recently spent a few spare minutes searching my soul, to figure out what went wrong, and suddenly, it hit me…it all started with emailing!
Before cyber communication was invented, I could spend HOURS with a friend, then come home, think of something I forgot to mention, call them up, and spend another hour+ on the phone with them. I went so far as to shun the use of call-waiting on my trendy, cordless phone, because I thought it was rude. If someone called and got the busy signal (I can hear some of your brains swirling right now, wondering, “what the heck is a busy signal?”), then so be it. They could call back later, or drive to my house and ring the doorbell. Why would I allow a conversation with one of my dearest friends to be interrupted by a call-waiting signal? No – it wasn’t gonna happen on my phone!
Then, almost without warning, in unsuspecting homes all around the world, computers took over the spare bedrooms. Suddenly, in spaces where children had grown up, and, since their leaving, various and sundry hobbies had been enjoyed, there were now tables and cords and keyboards and monitors and speakers and modems. People had to add the tech support phone number to their cordless phone speed-dial, and make up quaint, catchy email addresses. And for those homes where children were still in the growing-up stage, a generation of electronic interacters was born. Little did we know, at the time, that we were prying the lid further open on Pandora’s infamous box.
It all started out so innocently, as these things often do. I sent little notes back and forth – updates, birthday and holiday greetings, made plans for the weekend….and then, before I had blinked an eye, everyone had the capacity to do the same. Emails began to trickle in, rising rapidly to flood stage, from the children’s school, the library, the doctor’s office, the dentist’s office, the butcher and baker and candlestick maker, AND (the biggest nightmare of all…), from Aunt Pest, Uncle Creep, and my fringe friend, who forwarded on to me (and hundreds of other “friends,” without hiding the email addresses) every sad and/or soppy and/or inspiring story that came their way, as well as every possible mutation of the chain letter known to mankind. You would think that I might have taken this as a warning of the slippery slope down which I was about to slide. But, alas, I trudged onward, unaware of the coming snares.
Social networking websites…the very label itself is an oxymoron. Social (“living in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation”) website (something you hook up to while sitting at a computer, by yourself). Some genius thought that one up, all right. “Hey, I got a great idea – let’s all sit alone at our computers and interact socially!” Maybe they seeped some mind-altering gas into the natural gas lines, or something like that, because I fell for it, we ALL fell for it…hook, high-speed connection phone line, and sinker.
The sad thing is, it didn’t stop there. I was dragged deeper into the pit by a tiny cell phone. Sure, my husband and I started out like most folks our age did. “It would be nice to have one in case of an emergency, honey, don’t you think?” Now look at me. I (the one who said I would never text) am a texting maniac. (My husband, poor, geeky soul, still uses a flip phone.) We even got rid of our landline, so now we have to have a cell phone right next to us ALL. THE. TIME! “E-GADS, did I just miss a phone call (or text, or email, or a comment on my social networking site)???!!!” ARRRGGGG.
I am finally taking a stand. I am fighting this addiction with all I’ve got, because I’m worn out. I just can’t keep up with the maddening pace of this solitary social interaction. That, plus…I can’t get used to keeping a phone by my side twenty-four hours a day. I wasn’t born with a silver cell phone in my hand, and, no matter how hard I’ve tried, I can’t assimilate the habit. I am also done with sorting through spam to find the legitimate communication attempts in my email box. So please, don’t be alarmed or aggrieved if I don’t reply to your attempts at cyber communication, or if I fail to like your post on a social website, or if all of your calls go directly into my voicemail. This is why I seem to have fallen off the edge of the world, and it’s all part of the prescribed protocol for detaching oneself from electronics and returning to the universe of tangible, in-the-flesh, social interaction. I might even be practicing some verbal volleyball with an actual person when you call my cell phone (wherever it is), so just leave a message. But if you really need to get ahold of me, you might have to resort to sending me a postcard, leaving a note on my windshield, or knocking on my door. I’m here, alive and breathing, just waiting…