I have come to believe that the phrase “wireless world” is an oxymoron. Never have people, at least in our land, been more wired than currently. (Pardon the pun.) I am not talking about switchboards (remember those?) or extension cords, plug-ins or power lines. I am talking about modern technology and the human brain. Let me explain.
The other day I stopped at a Starbucks in Woodfield Mall. It was a day that offered a first feel of spring. We took a table outdoors and while enjoying the sun and a non frou-frou decaf coffee (frou-frou? You know; fancy-schmancy) I looked around. Two women at the next table were traveling the Internet on twin laptops; a teenage girl walked by, laughing into her cell phone; two stores down a businessman took notes while his ear and shoulder hugged a Blackberry; and a conversation two tables over stopped at the insistent ring of an incoming call.
Later that day, I found myself trying to tune out several conversations that had nothing to do with me. At Jewel someone with an ear phone talked his way down the aisles and a woman checking out answered the ringing in her purse. No wonder it sometimes feels like the Tower of Babel has crumbled, multiplying its noises all around.
I am not blameless in contributing to the bedlam. My cell phone and my raised voice when answering it intrude on others as well. There may be no wires in sight but, truth to tell, my world is a network of connections gone wild. Phone booths have become antiques; offices have lost their walls; and even the most private of conversations are often broadcast in public places.
I cannot speak for you, but I am working consciously to stifle the noises around me – especially my own. But cutting wireless wires is no easy task. It requires sensitivity, determination and consistency.
To begin with, I often keep my cell phone on “mute” or “vibrate,” knowing messages will be there at my convenience. If I am expecting a call and it arrives at an inconvenient time, I answer by saying, “Let me call you back.” I turn it off at gatherings if only because I want to be present to what is happening at the moment. And I am working hard to call at appropriate times and in sensible places.
I spend a lot of time on the Internet, but I try to keep my e-mails brief and on point even while making them feel like letters instead of telegrams or info bytes.
Undoubtedly, the wired world will be getting worse in the years ahead. It faces all of us with a lot to learn about sensitivity to others and caretaking of self. It also raises the question, “Do we use technology or does technology use us?” Something to ponder.