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Why reflect when you can just push the send button?

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POSTED August 13, 2012 12:03 a.m.

Remember the good old days when silence was golden?

Not only was there less electronic chatter but people weren’t bombarded every second with messages

It was before Twitter, e-mailing, cell phones and blogging.

Of course, our grandparents would say it was before, phones, television and radio.

People aren’t giving a chance to be out of touch. If we call someone on our cell phone, text them, or e-mail them we expect an answer and we want it now.

A day doesn’t go by that you don’t overhear someone going into a borderline rage because a text they sent 15 minutes earlier hadn’t yet received a response.

We’re no longer reaching out and touching someone. We’re reaching out and monopolizing all of their time.

Study after study shows the hours we spend collectively parked in front of TV sets, playing video games, answering e-mail, yakking on cell phones, and accessing smartphones is growing.

The new frontier apparently is taking your i-Pad to Yosemite so you can walk around arguably the most stunning cathedral nature ever carved with your eyes glued to a screen while surfing the web to find photos of what you’re looking at.

We’re drowning in a modern-day version of the Tower of Babel. Instead of struggling to communicate every day with people around us who speak in dozens upon dozens of different tongues we are forced to deal with a non-stop tsunami of trite information.

Is your life any better knowing what Kobe Bryant had for lunch? Is society any better because you can instantly react to something you hear or see and broadcast it to the world instantly without tempering your remarks with a second thought?

We’ve been reduced to the spectacle on the streets of midtown in New York City this past weekend. A man police were questioning suddenly pulled out an 11-inch knife. Officers drew their guns.  The man started to flee. The chase was on for several blocks with the man and police being followed by dozens of spectators who were using the cell phones to not only record what was before them but to offer running commentary.  At one point, the suspect turned and lunged at the officers with the knife. The officers returned fire killing him. The spectators were uploading their videos to the web within seconds.

What does that say about humanity? Have we come all that far from Romans cheering Christians being fed to the lions for entertainment?

Discretion was once the better part of valor. Now it’s anything goes. Take a picture of someone being killed or caught in an extremely embarrassing situation? Post it on YouTube as quickly as you can so you can get the most hits. Don’t worry about anything except the thrill of posting it. With a little luck you might be able to cash in on someone’s misery or shame. Who needs supermarket tabloids when we have smartphones?

Yes, there are a hundred arguments you can use defending such behavior. But at the end of the day, the true measure of whether it was “right” was if you looked in the mirror, gave it some thought and considered the consequences first before pushing the send button.

It’s not surprising we don’t think of the ramifications of what we do any more. With all of the high tech gadgets we have to communicate we don’t give ourselves the luxury of silence.

It’s a quaint little thing the likes of Thoreau, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Helen Keller did.

Social media - had it been around in the 1960s - might have gotten Martin Luther King’s message out to more people a lot quicker but its eloquence and wording worthy of the ages would not have been there. There is a big difference between off the cuff wit and uttering carefully chosen words that come from inner reflection.

And if King had chosen not to build a movement by connecting directly with people in person and instead tried to do it as a blogger or via Twitter it is highly doubtful he’d had been as effective.

Social media and instantaneous communication has increased volume to such a point that we are burying what we are trying to communicate under a never ending barrage of texts, videos, Tweets, and cell calls.

Silence isn’t golden any more. It’s platinum.

 

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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