Communication hypocrites

Comic Louis C.K.’s rant about smartphones has gone viral. His entire argument boils down to this: people stick their heads into their phones to avoid the immense sadness that is the emptiness and meaningless of life.

So, to frame this a bit differently, he’s accusing people who use smartphones of not spending time doing nothing and just being sad and depressed. People are engaging too much and having too much fun.

This is just the opposite of the complaints we all hear that people using cellphones/computers/tablets are too disengaged from social life. Which research shows isn’t the case. (Digression: clearly I am very pro-reading, but it’s hilarious to me that reading is a more socially-isolating activity than texting others.)

Before email, communication hypocrites complained that too many people spent too much time talking and gabbing at one another on the phone instead of writing letters, like in the old days.

Then email came along and those same people complained that everyone just wanted to type rather than actually converse with others. Vocal cords will atrophy!

Then came cell phones and the communication hypocrites complained that they didn’t want to hear other people conversing in public. Why couldn’t they just email or text? Why does everyone have to talk all the time?

When smartphones came along the communications hypocrites complained that people are socially isolated because their heads are glued to their smartphones with social media, texting or email. Face-to-face human interaction is a dying art, they tweet, and we will all turn into mute, autistic sociopaths. Louis C.K. plays to this by saying that empathy is only learned through face-to-face interaction, and with everyone sticking their head in a phone, it’s going to die and kids will be ruined.

So those 6 hours of school a day, nothing but face-to-face interaction, somehow that doesn’t fit the bill? Not to mention the hours of sports, birthday parties, hanging out with friends, etc.? Most adults don’t have to sit in lectures all day – give the kids a break if they want some time away from the facial expressions and body language.

The hypocrites probably complained about using papyrus instead of wax tablets. They probably complained about using languages rather than grunts and meaningful looks. If telepathy comes along, they’ll pine for the old days when you had to text your mom rather than just intrude on her thoughts.

Hypocrites, get over yourselves. Communication is communication, no matter what the medium. We are living the dream of multiple generations: to communicate in real time with people around the world in a number of ways: text, picture, video, audio. Think of our ancestors who lost touch with family and friends after moving to a new continent, or even to a different city. Not everybody was a letter writer (or even literate). They would kill to have the option of using Facebook, Twitter, free long-distance calls, email and texts.

So try thinking for a minute before denouncing the latest devil that vastly improves and expands human interaction and makes people (sorry Louis) happier.

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