Call Me.

I’m having an internal debate about how technology might be hindering my social interactions. It’s probably hindering yours too.

I remember the first time I got a text: I was standing on Michigan Avenue looking down at my Nokia brick phone in wonderment. It seemed totally weird to type something that could take a fraction of the time to say over the phone. Fast forward about 15 years, and I’m talking to most of my friends through bitmoji’s… so, not, actually, saying anything at all.

In general, I don’t like talking on the phone, and to my point, I really don’t have to like it. We’ve gone through a massive paradigm shift and are now living in a world in which it’s kind of totally weird to actually call someone when you can email, text, or bitmoji your way through any situation.

A Toronto phone booth. In 2017.

The depersonalization of these interactions is somehow starting to bother me, though. My students are quite comfortable arguing over points in an email, but when they have to ask me something to my face, they’re mortified. Look at how couples dine together at restaurants, or how they mingle at bars. Typically, one person is talking, and the other is talking to someone else through his phone. It’s a hell of a lot easier to opt out of a party,  or get out of life in general, when you can text your apology.

We’re losing the ability to put focused attention on any one person or situation, and it’s kind of freaking me out. But what would happen if we had to do without our rectangular pacifiers? What if there’s an emergency, or I somehow become stranded? Society has all but removed the tools and resources we used to need, and we’ve created a world in which it’s impossible to imagine life without a cell phone, and in addition to not having to talk to anyone, we also don’t particularly have to plan anything ahead of time.

I’m my own worst example of this: on a trip to Ann Arbor, MI this weekend I left for the airport with my passport and my cell phone. I didn’t know how I was getting to my hotel, or from the hotel to where I needed to go that evening or anything at all about my trip, really.

Because I didn’t have to.

But I also noticed that there are no pay phones in Ann Arbor, no white courtesy phones at the airport, and no phone book in my hotel room. So, what would I have done if my phone died and I forgot my charger, or if I dropped it into the river? I’d have to go talk to a person.

I’m not interested in throwing my phone in the river – I mean – I love Instagram and Twitter and I just figured out that Uber is amazing. I’m also not entirely sure whether or not Ann Arbor has a river.

The point is,  the technology we have is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, I’m a blogger… so I depend on people depending on their little rectangular windows to the world.  But for me personally, I’m trying to recognize the way technology has changed how I view and interact with the world, and affected my ability to ask for help when I need it.

So I might call you sometime, and if you want, you can call me too. It’s going to be weird at first, but we’ll get through it.

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