Saturday, July 16, 2011

A New Breed of Social Retard

Forget the stigma of homeschool. There’s a new kid on the block when it comes to social retardation. And he’s far from educated at home.
Sitting in a doctor’s waiting room last week, I was conscious not to pull out my iPhone and check my email. Conscious because I was worried that my 10 month old might pick a scrap up off the floor and swallow it while I wasn’t looking. Conscious also of the fact that I would have been choosing to connect with this gadget rather than talk to my 3 year old. Conscious – just a little – of what everyone in the waiting room might think of my practicing what I think epitomizes today’s social retard.

I needn’t have worried about the latter pang.

Across from me sat a mother and her 15 year old daughter, still in school uniform at 5 pm. Both were equipped with mobile phones which clearly did more than just make phone calls or send text messages. Neither said a word to the other during the 30 minutes we sat in the room together. Both were completely engrossed in whatever it was their fingers were doing, their eyes were seeing, their minds were taking in.

I was impressed by the concentration of the teenager. Shame it wasn’t an exam. But more impressed by the mother’s interest in her gadget.

It is perhaps not surprising that children and teenagers pick up and become obsessed with digital communication. What is surprising is the rapid rate at which men and women in their 40s and 50s have caught on to this phenomenon. What’s more, they haven’t just caught on, they seem to be engulfed by it. What's missing in the lives of these midlifers that they feel the need to fill them with media?

Facebook and Twitter accounts. MySpace and blogs. Work and personal email addresses. Text messaging, iPhone apps, iPods and iPads. We seem to have more ways of communicating with those outside our sphere than we do with those within. Family members receive a few words a day from us – a conversation or two. Our 450+ Facebook friends receive multiple status updates, the value of which is utterly meaningless. We don’t live in the world of our numerous Facebook friends or Twitter followers any more than they live in ours. We’re lucky if we see half of them in a decade. Yet we pride ourselves on our level of social sophistication.

It must be that socialization has been redefined, because back in the day, if a child sat glued to her mobile phone (to say nothing of the mother) in the doctor’s waiting room… oh wait. Back in the day kids didn’t have mobile phones.

Welcome to the age of social retardation en masse.

© Eva Whiteley 2011

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