In Flight Entertainment

En route from Philly back to Chicago, I got up to use the bathroom – something I hate doing, peeing on airplanes. While walking back down the aisle of the fully-loaded plane, I realized that about 90 percent of the travelers were using some type of electronic device. Most were on tablets of some sort, a lot on their smart phones and few from the stone age (like myself, now) were on laptops. One thing that I did see, and was (sadly) surprised by, there were a couple reading books! And no, I’m not just talking from Kindles, Nooks and iPads, I mean real paperback novels. Some were even flipping their way through magazines.

This brings me to something my aunt said last (Saturday) night: Autism is survival of the fittest. Actually, I shouldn’t quote her on that, I think she said that one of her co-workers made the comment – forgive me, I don’t remember specifically. Anyways, as I did when I first heard the statement, you may be wondering where this assumption/belief/thinking comes from. My aunt explained that as we get more wrapped up and involved with electronics, there becomes less of a need for face-to-face communication. Funny how things all tie together, as the (paperback) book I was reading pre-bathroom trip discussed how those who are autistic are not able to look others in the eye, which leads to difficulties communicating.

Whether or not there’s any truth in the statement above, I have no idea. I do not know enough about autism or the true effects that electronics have on communication skills. However, I do have my own perspective of the issue of electronics, which I think take away from real conversation. In fact, it takes away from a lot of other interaction as well, at least in my opinion. Take for example when you first discovered the Internet. If you are around my age, it was when you were in your preteens. My friends and I used AIM to chat with each other, so we were still communicating. Now, that somehow seems less.

With the birth of social media, it seems as though the actual conversations have slowed. This may seem to counter today’s teens who spend their hours staring at tiny smartphone screens texting their friends, checking their Twitter feeds and the like – often simply reposting a “friend’s” post. But when I was just getting to explore the world wide web, it was something I used when at home with nothing else to do. It was something that I did when I couldn’t be hanging out with my friends. From what I’ve seen, kids today are more interested in what’s on their electronics than what’s happening right in front of them. And to be completely honest, they aren’t the only ones. I’ve been guilty of it myself, as have a number of my friends, colleagues and family members.

Not having a child, I could be wrong with my perceptions. But the use of electronics is changing the way we operate in more than just the realm of communication. I’ve seen video clips of small children unable to flip the pages of a magazine, because they are more familiar with their parents’ tablets. My brother and I have discussed children’s inabilities to write well, because they no longer have to put pen to paper. At some point, won’t they even be unable to spell correctly, as speak to type and other applications become more commonplace? Well, that’s a frightening thought.

I do think that there are a number of benefits for going electronic, especially in the classroom. Isn’t it easier for children to carry around their iPads with all of the books they’ll need for every class in one light-weight place, rather than on their shoulders in backpacks that are too heavy? The Internet is a wonderful outlet for researching, especially when writing papers. So, yes it is a good thing that kids these days have access to all of these things – but what’s the limit?

I, for one, will find it a sad day in the future if we are no longer talking with one another face-to-face. As will I be disappointed if my children aren’t taught to write the alphabet – in both print and cursive! While I recognize the fading age of the paperback novel, I mourn its death. I propose that kids are encouraged to continue passing hand-written notes in class. I hope little girls keep writing in their journals, hiding the keys to these locked dreams away from their big brothers. Electronics are great, but there’s something to be said for the written word and face-to-face communication.

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