I hate everybody, and everybody hates me.
At least, that’s what the standard, cold-shoulder, can’t-let-go-of-my-Ipod attitude these days tends to communicate. Or the seeming inability to squeeze a few drops of courtesy out of ourselves–not much, mind you, just enough to avoid blocking a neighbor’s driveway, or take the seconds required to click our turn signals so we don’t take fellow drivers unawares, or pay attention to the glowing sign over the cash register that tells us where to go if we have over twenty items in our carts. Apparently the guiding principle of life has become what I like to call “speedy greed.” Whatever makes me happy and gets my way, preferably as quickly as possible. I will cut you off in traffic or run a red light if it promises to get me home a couple seconds faster. Never mind the pesky issue of reckless endangerment. You have an air bag, right? I will run you over on my way into the express lane with my overflowing groceries or be rude to the check-out clerk, so long as I don’t have to give up any of my precious time in order to facilitate your life. I’ll browbeat a waiter into a bloody heap and act like a general ass, so long as my water glass never drops below half-full and the folks who came in after me don’t get their food one second before I do. So, people, get the hell out of my way, ’cause Me, Myself, and I are comin’ through!
Now, I’m enough of a historian to recognize that there is no such thing as a lost “golden age.” (Or maybe we just tell ourselves that so we won’t have to feel guilty about our own.) No, the argument goes, every time has problems of its own. Along those lines, I’d like to submit the “E-society” as, if not THE, then at least ONE of the problems faced by our generation. And by our generation, I mean anyone young (and old) enough to operate an X-Box. Those who don’t believe if they hold the ribbon from a VHS tape up to the light, they’ll see little pictures. And those who don’t believe an MP3 player to be a poorly-conceived teething toy.
Every time I walk down the sidewalk, I’m forced to wonder, evolutionarily speaking, how long it’ll be before earbuds start growing out of the human head. I hear people speak of telephones that “also allow you to make calls.” I can now carry on a more meaningful conversation with the AI in my Smartphone than I have to with an actual human being during the course of my day. My friends consist almost exclusively of thumbnail pictures on my Facebook page. I am an E-dividual in an E-world, and the human element of my being is fading from E-xistence. And this is a good thing? Martha Stewart can bite me!
You can’t tell me (or, at least, not convincingly) that the constant barrage of techno-crap doesn’t take its toll on our ability to socially interact with any level of decorum. For starters, how do we respond in kind if we can’t hear the person who greeted us in the first place? Ever-present ear paraphernalia make it necessary for the other to physically assault us in order to get our attention as we pass him by. Not to mention the use of headgear while driving, which, if not unconscionably rude and irresponsible, is–I think we can agree–irretrievably stupid. And then there’s poking–acceptable behavior on Facebook which would get us sued and/or arrested if we performed a similar action in person. And, since Farmville isn’t included on too many job descriptions, just think what’s happening to the American work ethic every time someone “waters their wheat,” or whatever the heck the game involves. I’ll vote for the guy who runs on the platform: Eliminate Facebook, save the American economy!
Our senses are being leeched away from the world around us and funneled into cyberspace at an alarming rate. Social awkwardness is now defined by whether or not you can send a text message in under ten seconds and whether or not you know what TTYL and LMFAO stand for. Never mind that I’ve forgotten how to wave and/or acknowledge other people–I can kill angry birds like a son-of-a-gun. If you’re wondering why I never respond when I see you out and about, it’s because I didn’t see you. I was too busy engaging in the massacre of digital avians.
So, yeah, I’m a misanthrope. But only because everyone else is, too…