Ive all but given up on the family dinner. Used to be the family, ideally, would gather together each evening to break bread and share tales of the day's adventures. Value was placed on those folks who could regale with the best-crafted stories and entertain with witty and mildly sarcastic observations of human nature. Over the last few decades, though, this time-honored tradition has eroded until today, there is hardly a gathering around the table, much less stimulating conversation because of it.
It all started, of course, with the democratic distribution of TeeVee. It wasn't long before some 'genius' gave the world the TeeVee dinner, a vaguely appetizing collection of yellows and browns that kind of tasted OK, but who'd notice since the family was entranced by the flickering lights in a box.
This form of anti-social socializing reached a crescendo when programming execs split the viewing schedule so that kid-attractors came early on in the evening, while adult-attractors were set for later. Throw in a microwave oven and you had the recipe for quickie meals for the kids at 5 or 6 in the evening, while Mom and Pop would have slightly more elaborate gruel after bedtime...all ingested while spewing alpha brain waves in front of the Boob Toob.
Now-a-days, even if/when the family gathers to shove genetically-modified organisms down their gullets, the only thing social about the occasion is the relatively close proximity of their corporal beings. Otherwise, all individuals are engrossed in their iBerries barely acknowledging either food or their dining partners. Occasionally, someone will stir ever so slightly to take a picture of everyone else with their noses glued to their iBerries and the last bit of steam rising from the untouched dinner to take a photo to post on their FarceTwit.
There is one redeeming value in all of this. I used to talk to myself a lot, but now I can at least look like I'm conversing with other people.
Call me a neo-Luddite. I really despise all these gee-gaws. I do manage to find some entertainment in it all, though. I like to watch people when I receive a text or call and I don't leap over tall buildings to answer it. At first, people stare at me waiting for me to grab the device and breathlessly absorb the mostly-meaningless gibberish. After a short time, though, they being to hyperventilate and turn pale as they begin to worry that I'm missing the latest update on someone's bowel movement. Before long, they're in an all-out panic, since I haven't skipped a dozen or so heartbeats to find out who just discovered toe jamb.
Maybe I'm now considered old-fashioned, or should I use 'old school'? I still believe that having a conversation with a living, breathing human being takes precedence over electronic communications from non-present folks. Furthermore, I find no artistry in FarceTwits. A good conversationalist can enlighten and stimulate thought, while 99.999999% of FarceTwits are benign, at best, and banal in the norm.
E-mail, too, has destroyed the letter. No one uses salutations or honorifics anymore, and the notes usually start and end in mid-thought, as if the recipient were injected into a stream-of-consciousness ejaculation, but that assumes that most people are conscious these days.
All of which brings us to the destruction of language. The effect is not limited to English, but to every language used on the 'net. They have all begun to devolve into crass forms of short-hand with a near-total absence of adjectives, adverbs or metaphors.
No one struggles to turn a phrase or creatively string sounds together in a meaningful way. Instead, most communications now are little more than prehistoric grunts and growls trying to cram some amount of meaning into 139 characters or less. The written word has devolved into a string of consonants masquerading as profundities. And since these media are so cheap and fast, people no longer take the time to distill their thoughts, leaving us with verbal grape juice rather than fine wine.
Not that it matters much, since the attention span of the average mediot is shorter than Planck's Constant.
Back in the day, when I used to read Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four as prophesy rather than history, I used to wonder how the authoritarians would get folks to sit still while they snipped the language down to the bare bones to the point it was impossible to even have certain thoughts. It never ceases to amaze me that it was achieved voluntarily, and people were even enticed to spend money on the devices to do it. In fact, the younger generation is even beginning to talk in Newspeak.
Double-plus good wot?
Language and culture go hand in hand. Culture influences language by adding new words, redefining old ones and adding subtext and context to the meaningful use of them. Language, on the other hand, transfers culture from one generation to the next. Without it, we cannot pass on the things we have learned, in the hopes of giving insight and instruction to future humans. The destruction of one is the destruction of both.
There may come a time, sooner than later, when no one will be able to read Plato or Shakespeare, when humor and wit are limited to body noises and pratfalls, when subtle differences like 'hear' and 'listen' are lost. We are already at the point where students know more about putting condoms on cucumbers than they do about W. B. Yeats or t. s. eliot. Already, folks graduate from university without ever having read a single word of Aristotle, Kant or Lao Tzu. They call themselves educated, yet they can't recite even a single stanza of Dante or Cicero. At best, they've heard of Justin Bieber.
I have to wonder what great things would happen in our world if families returned to Sunday night dinners - check all electronics at the door. Or how about turning off the TeeVee a couple of nights a week so that the kids could do poetry recitals. How about banning the use of the word 'friend' for anyone other than close personal relationships? Certainly, we know that the dissolution of public school systems would greatly improve general education, and along those lines, anyone with a degree containing the word 'education' in it should be banned from all contact with children. We should call them 'cognitive predators' and register them like sexual offenders.
The path we are on has led to decaying social interaction, not enhanced. It is destroying our languages and swallowing whole the time we used to give towards bonding with real friends and interacting with real human beings. We waste so much time FarceTwitting that we have none left for meaningful, profound communication with people. Rather than coherent thoughts, we assail each other with malformed mush and empty utterances.
Think how much time we throw away on gee-gaws and accessories, upgrades and replacements, apps and downloads. Suppose we applied just a fraction of all that effort to simple human-to-human interaction and real-life adventures? Suppose that instead of mindlessly inhaling TeeVee, we used that time to memorize the great soliliquies of Shakespeare or the poetry of e.e. cummings? What profound and amazing changes would take place?
At a minimum, it would at least limit our exposure to the 24-hour propaganda cycle. Who knows? It could also repair the language.
The iBerries and FarceTwits are just an endless circle of tail-chasing, trying to keep up with the latest nonsense and fads. Instead of becoming exciting communication tools, they have become annoyances, at best, and destructive weapons, at worst. Even scarier are the generations coming whose only memories and relationships exist as bits and bytes in a global ether. They will know strangers a thousand miles away better than the people living in the same house with them. They may even evolve into a Tom Robbins nightmare of creatures with grotesquely large thumbs and no survival skills in the real world.
If the philosophers are right, and we do live in some kind of holographic matrix, then what an amazing strangeness that are creating a matrix withing a matrix. Life is becoming a hall of mirrors punctuated by glowing rectangles of light, a Dali-esque stellar tapestry with little substance and invisible borders.
Our increasing reliance on electronics as a replacement for familiar and intimate human relationships can only end in disaster.