Thursday, November 18, 2010

For Thanksgiving: Give Me Facetime, Not Facebook

Dear friends and family,

I just got off the phone with a long time friend of mine who suggested I share my thoughts with you because he thought I was onto something that was worthwhile, perhaps even visionary, so here goes.

He was relating a nightmare story of how he had purchased some furniture on the web from a supposedly legitimate entity. Now my friend Dave is no neophyte, in fact, he is quite a tech savvy guy who works in web applications development for a living. Prior to making his buying decision, he spent a considerable amount of time checking out all of the potential problems with his online purchase. Despite positive social media feedback about the manufacturer and claims from the vendor that his purchase was totally secure, the goods have yet to arrive some two months later. Even though the seller insisted that the order had been fulfilled and was being held up by Fed-Ex for processing, it was obvious to him that something wasn't right. Somewhere along the way through the numerous exchanges of electronic data and despite a whole series of system safeguards, the process failed. Which leads me to the reason I am writing to you now. It's all about the dehumanizing effect of technology and how it has taken over our lives. The digital distractions that masquerade as conveniences to make our lives easier are, in my opinion, actually creating more problems than they are solving. It is one thing to ask us to all embrace a new method of social interaction and commerce. It is quite another to incrementally remove human interaction from the equation until we are left with no other option. And all at our expen$e.

Have you noticed that the TV commercials are pushing the whole I-phone, Facebook, Twitter thing to the point of nauseating over saturation? Well if you have, then you are not alone. Way back in the 80's or 90's or somewhere thereabouts when the whole Internet revolution was still in its infancy, no-one really knew how things were going to pan out. They couldn't have predicted the infectious spread of viruses and identity theft, they couldn't have predicted that terrorists would be using cell phones to detonate bombs, and they couldn't have predicted the evolution of a system that now holds us captive. With marketing budgets in the billions, companies like Microsoft, Apple, Verizon, and AT&T are forging ahead with a relentless onslaught that even the banks and government have bought into. And they are herding us together like sheep to the proverbial slaughter.

Despite the so-called wonders of social networking that is being hailed as a panacea for everything from poor business performance to a vanishing middle -class, those of us who still have some gray matter left between our ears know that this is not really in our best interest. Just ask the parents of the teenager who committed suicide because her peers posted hurtful things about her on a social networking site. When all is said and done, only the major corporations that are heavily invested in this technology will be the winners. They really don't care about our quality of life or making the world a better place to live in. The only thing they are concerned with is profit. They simply will not stop until we are totally dependent upon them for our survival.

Now you may dismiss this idea as the ravings of a disgruntled lunatic who doesn't have the inclination or desire to own the latest droid, I-phone or device du jour they are pushing, and if you are one of those people, then so be it. I doubt you will even take the time to read this post, you are probably too busy downloading the latest app. And that's OK with me, I don't expect you to respond anyway. Ever see a 4 year old girl with an I-phone? There's nothing more telling about the pathetic nature of our society and just how low we have sunk in our quest to be hip. But I digress.

If I sound isolated, perhaps it's because I am. I have rarely felt more disconnected than I do right now. Getting a response from anybody is like pulling teeth.Usually what fills my inbox are out of office auto replies and solicitations for products and services I don't want and don't need. Unfortunately, there is little out there that qualifies as true communication.Virtual relationships are good to an extent, but in my opinion, there is still no substitute for the Real McCoy.

Hey, if you are in LA or DC and I'm stuck in the middle in Chicago, of course we can't just get together for a beer and hangout. But wouldn't it be nice to know that if the opportunity arose, there would be no hesitation on the part of those we think of as our friends to jump at the chance? The sound of a familiar voice on the phone, an unexpected invitation, a card to share some happy news, anything will do. Just let me know that I am in some way still relevant to you and that I am still in your thoughts, because you are still very much in mine. If I have been remiss in keeping up with my end of the bargain, then I offer my most sincere apologies. I will work harder to initiate and maintain communication from now on. Some of you may have recently lost loved ones, you may have lost your job, you may have lost your house or your nest egg. And although you may not be aware of it, I feel your pain. I feel it deeply and often.

So there it is. There is really nothing left for me to say. The ball is now in your court. All the TOOLS of communication are readily at your disposal, the only question that remains is: Does the WILL to communicate still exist, and if so, will you take the first step?

One final note: With the Holidays upon us, it is often easy to be overwhelmed by the needs and demands of others be they friends, family, or co-workers. I hope I have not added to your burden.

Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving with all the trimmings life can offer.

Yours truly,