Sunday, March 1, 2009

iPods, Cell Phones and Ear Buds

As humans, we crave contact. Since prehistoric time, our species has used drawings, sounds, and words to communicate. With each technological advance, we readily embrace and integrate the latest gadgets that puts us in touch. At times, such communication is one way—listening to recordings, watching television, viewing movies and videos. Interactive devices caught on immediately because humans love to exchange “in the moment” ideas, thoughts, and news.

As one who grew up in the 40’s and 50’s, communication consisted of books, radio, records, television and face-to-face contact. The telephone was always available, but its use was closely monitored by parents. Phone use by children and teenagers was restricted to “necessary” calls. Our primary means of interactive communication was our daily togetherness at school. We couldn’t wait to see, talk and listen to what friends and classmates had to say. Walking home from school, sharing hallways on the way to class, cheering at sporting events and informal street-corner seminars were all part of our communicative, socialization and personal development. Later, when separated by geographic distance, phone calls helped supplement our need for contact until our next visit. When telephone calls were not possible, we sent cards and actually wrote letters to loved ones and friends. That was so long ago. Today, immersed in technology, we use electronic gadgets and devices to communicate. In school, during passing periods, students fill hallways with their ears plugged with ear buds. Although walking side-by-side, they prefer to listen to other sounds rather than friendly voices. In self-imposed solitary confinement, students shun opportunities to socialize, trade comments, and share memory-making moments with classmates. Some are so offended and self-centered they engage in argumentative outbursts when told in classrooms to pay attention, turn off their electronic toys, and de-bud their ears.

Regardless of circumstance or distance, someone is always in contact with someone. Many are so addicted to self-importance they have a phone hanging on their ear! Others multi-task in a desperate attempt not to be alone with their own thoughts: whether driving, shopping or walking their phone is glued to their ear. Not too long ago at a wake service, someone’s cell phone provided a musical interlude in the midst of the memorial prayer service. Occasionally in church, one of the purses in the pew will signal an incoming call. These examples of one’s inconsiderate self- importance are mind boggling. I hope one day should they try to contact Heaven they’re not greeted with a ‘busy’ signal.

We have phones that record messages, take photos, and reduce one’s privacy to unsettling levels. Electronic data is permanent—cyber-space is unforgiving; its memory is fantastic!

It is understood that talking on the phone while driving is risky, nevertheless, there are folks who even text while they drive—periodically taking their eyes off the road to punch in their vitally important message. They jeopardize the safety of themselves and others in order to satisfy an egotistical mindset of self-importance. Truly, they are a legend in their own mind. Student’s texting in classrooms has become a major concern in schools throughout the land. Kids definitely learn by example.

Now that computers, cell phones, iPods, blackberries, iPhones, television, GPS and TiVO’s, are all integrated into unified communication devices, one wonders what will become of individuality. Texting, ‘sexting,’ electronic photos, and all kinds of savory and unsavory information now flood cyber-space. Non-erasable data is tsunami-like filling screens of My Space, Twitter, YouTube, Face book, cell phones, iPods, countless computer screens and chat-rooms. People so enamored with themselves share their most intimate thoughts and images in hopes of gaining notoriety, recognition, or fame; unaware of the repercussions and personal damage caused by such action.

Cell phones and other similar devices are wonderful but they do not come equipped with common sense. Overuse, misuse, and unnecessary use of these appliances require responsibility, courtesy, and intelligence. Unfortunately, ego usually trumps common sense.

But the social habit most disturbing is the use of ear buds. Connected to an iPod by wires and ear buds, kids walk around like marionettes attached with droopy strings. They are in the moment as they listen to whatever is being pumped from their iPod to their audio receptors. The unsettling thing is that kids often share ear buds with friends. Taking one of the buds from their ear and placing it in their friend’s ear so they can share the current selection; then, returning it to their ear. We were taught as kids not to share toothbrushes, combs, hairbrushes, cosmetics, and other personal items with anyone to prevent transfer of unwanted bacteria and germs. Today, the exchange of earwax particles, bacteria, sweat, and unknown microbes are part and parcel of the “I’m Cool Ear Bud Profit Sharing Plan.” Can an increase of ear infections be far behind? No pun intended but—“It’s a budding question.”

Where's Al going to be next???

Check back soon for his next appearance at a location near you!