Nov 07 2012
I got a great email over the weekend. It was a series of pictures under the caption:
A Generation Looking without Seeing and Hearing without Listening”
The pictures were of young people today who were doing things people do in groups: having a coffee, eating in a restaurant, enjoying the beauty of a museum, pleasantly chatting in a café, enjoying a day at the beach, supporting the home team at the stadium, or riding in a convertible.
The kicker was, in every picture, the people were all staring at their cell phones, playing games or texting. They didn’t see the museum or the beach or experience the wind in their faces as they rode in the convertible. They weren’t speaking to each other or even looking at each other as they ate their meals. They were completely engrossed in whatever they were doing on their cell phones, to the exclusion of everything else.
The email then featured a quote from Albert Einstein. It said:
I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.”
The email ended with the words, “Einstein was right.”
Technology is a good thing, but we’ve all heard that we can have too much of a good thing. If we aren’t careful, the good thing that is technology can get in the way of better things — things such as life.
Last week at the temple, the women on our shift were trained on how to escort youth groups to the baptistry to do baptisms. One of the workers told a story of how she told a youth group to turn off their cell phones before they entered the temple.
The teenagers looked at her blankly.
Then one of the youth leaders said, “She isn’t telling you to turn off the ringers of your cell phones. She is telling you to turn your cell phones off.” The youth looked shocked, but they dug into their pockets and purses and turned their cell phones off for their temple visit. Even in the temple, which is specifically designed to shut out the outside world, youth are starting to think of their cell phones as extensions of themselves. The idea that they shouldn’t be texting while they are there can come as a real surprise.
This is not just a problem that is suffered by young people. I recently read about a study that had been done by a schoolteacher, who asked her students what one inanimate object they would get rid of if they had the power to do so. Two of the answers were, “My mom’s cell phone,” and, “My dad’s computer.” More and more, people of all ages are choosing to hide behind their mechanical devices instead of interacting with the human beings in their lives.
There are times when I covet one of those tablets that would allow me to show film clips in lessons I teach without having to import a television and a DVD player. I have to admit that I look at the ads with more than a little bit of longing.
But the idea of becoming dependent on that tablet is more than a little scary. I don’t want it to become that much a part of my life.
Back in the old days, there was a Simon and Garfunkel song called “The Sounds of Silence.” Here are two of the stanzas:
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more —
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.
“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you.
Take my arms that I might reach you.”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
In the wells of silence.
Technology is a good thing, but it isn’t the only thing. Next time you go to a restaurant or a museum or a party, turn the cell phones off. If you’re shepherding around a bunch of kiddies, have them turn their cell phones off too.
If you’re forced to interact with the people around you, you just may remember why you love them. And in this world, love is a good thing.