I own a cell phone with a cheap pre-paid plan.
The phone stays turned off, until the rare occasion when I need to use it. I carry it for emergencies when I drive my car, or ride my bike.
I have no desire to be in instant contact with everyone else on this planet; I have managed to come this far in my life without that option.
On the other hand, I embrace the Internet; anyone can find me fairly easily and contact me by email, and many do.
It keeps me extremely busy trying to respond them all, and I sometimes fail in the attempt. Which is one of the reasons I do not need the rest of my waking hours, to be spent with a cell phone in my ear.
This is not just another "Old Man’s Lament" post about how things were better in my day. Things were not necessarily better in the old days; it is just that some of us, having lived a little longer, saw the changes take place and because of that can see both the positive and negative aspects resulting from change.
Do cell phones and the Internet make us more sociable? I think the reverse is true. It enables us to be in contact with an ever-increasing number of long distance relationships, at the expense of those closer to us.
It used to be a person would walk into a bar, order a drink, and then socialize with the bartender or others seated at the bar. Today a person walks into a bar, orders a drink, and immediately flips open a cell phone.
They become oblivious to everyone around them as they hold a long distance conversation with someone maybe sitting alone in some other bar. The person will often finish their drink, and their conversation, then leave the bar having made no verbal or even eye contact with anyone there.
Even in situations where there is an opportunity for chance encounters, they no longer happen. Two people in a Laundromat for example; in pre-cell phone times they would at least exchange a smile and a few words.
Today, chances are at least one or even both are talking on cell phones. They are too busy socializing long distance, and totally ignore each other. Completely missing the opportunity to socialize face-to-face right where they are.
Even though the Internet is my favoured medium; I am dismayed at the rudeness shown on Internet forums. If a person is rude to a stranger online simply because they can remain anonymous, is there a chance that rudeness will spill over into their every day lives? I can't see where being rude online helps a person with their social skills in interacting with others in day to day situations.
The cyclist, who posts an angry comment on an Internet forum, is just as likely to get on his bike and flip a finger at the first motorist they perceived had made a wrong move. Both the cyclist and motorist do not see a fellow human being, but some anonymous figure; much like the one on the Internet.
Much of the carnage on our roads today is caused by rude, angry people behind the steering wheel. Rude, angry cyclists are mostly a danger only to themselves. How did these people become so consumed by anger? It does seem to be a growing trend.
When I started cycling, I was fortunate that I was able to join a cycling club. There were other members of the club, older and more experienced, who taught me all I needed to know about the bicycle and the skills required to ride it.
Today, there are still such local clubs, but it seems most would prefer to go on Internet forums as their source of knowledge. The problem is the experienced people with knowledge to share do not go there because they are often treated with contempt and rudeness.
There is now a whole generation for whom there has always been an Internet, and cell phones, and there has always been rudeness. Rudeness is accepted as the norm. One time when I protested the online rudeness, I was told, “It’s an Internet forum, what do you expect?” Actually, I expected politeness, how naive of me.
Rudeness has no beneficiaries, either those dishing out the rudeness or the recipient. It makes people angry; the person being rude is angry because they see themselves as right in a situation and the other person is an idiot. And of course the recipient of the rudeness is also angry.
Just as the person on their cell phone ignores the person standing next to them, there are some who will stumble on one article I have written here, and then shoot off some angry comment dismissing the article as “BS by an arrogant SOB.” This happened just last week on Bike Forums.
If only the person, instead of responding in anger because they disagreed with my view, had taken a moment to peruse my profile, and learn a little more about me. Maybe if they had read a few more articles here, they may have actually learned something about bicycles.
By being angry and rude, they missed an opportunity to improve their knowledge, simply because they did not take the time to get to know me.
The Internet is a wonderful thing; however, it is an entity with very few rules and relies on human decency to operate smoothly. Human decency breaks down when people become detached from each other.
Could the cause of this breakdown be over use of the Internet, and other technology like cell phones? Those of us online, find the thread that attaches us is extremely fragile to begin with. People are naturally social beings, and need that personal contact.
Rudeness drives people apart; it isolates the person being rude. Are we in danger of becoming a race of rude, angry, and lonely people, with few social skills?
Hang up the phone and look at the person standing next to you. Look at the author of what you are reading on your computer screen. It is entirely possible that he is not just some “Wanker” trying to push your buttons; he may actually have something worthwhile to say.