Finally, technology is bifurcating us as well. Smartphones, the Internet, video games, iPads — the whole technological inventory indispensable even to the welfare recipient — have discouraged the age-old idea of self-improvement. Advancement was always predicated on greater education and experience. Reading literature, mastering grammar and syntax, improved diction, training the mind for such mental gymnastics — all that is antithetical to communicating at the speed of light on Facebook and Twitter, to announce each minute while walking, driving or talking, “Whatsup?” “I’m OK, you?” and other critical exchanges of knowledge. Sending a picture of yourself driving has turned the inane into the essential, and something great and noble was lost in that bargain. Sometimes danger follows — like yesterday when a 16-wheeler on the 99 swerved in and out of the left lane, while the driver was texting vital commentary on Dante’s Inferno or a new insight on the Federalist Papers.
The underclass is hooked on electronic dope. They are not fracking or building houses. And they are not on idle evenings scanning the Internet to discover what Venice looks like or to learn the etymology of democracy or even to learn how to tile or do wiring, at least not normally. Instead it is a sort of addiction to images, graphics, and the sheer speed of communicating. How can you advise a youth that improving his computing skills, his language, his demeanor, and his work ethic is essential to social mobility and the general collective tranquility and stability of society, when you are competing against Grand Theft Auto and Tweets, or, for that matter, the therapeutic industry reassuring the unemployed that someone somewhere did this to him?
Once upon a time I mistakenly believed that new technologies would force people to become literate in order to participate in them. Instead we have millions of Rachel Jeantels communicating with each other in a written pidgin English called “texting”.
I don’t own a smartphone. I don’t even own a dumbphone. If I leave the house I am cut-off from communicating electronically. When I tell people I don’t own a cell phone they think I’m lying and just don’t want to give them the number.
I don’t play games. I have never owned a video game console. I bought my sons a Nintendo back in the 80’s and played it a few times but never made it past the first few levels of Super Mario Brothers. I don’t play online games either.
But I’m still hooked on electronic dope. I’m getting my fix right now. If you take away my cheap-ass eMachine desktop for a few hours I start to suffer withdrawal anxiety.
Now if you will excuse me, I need to check out Twitter.