Talking, Obsolete? By Sary Valenzuela

by Sary Valenzuela
(Manila, Philippines)

Talking, Obsolete?
By Sary Valenzuela

It hit me during one of our family’s traditional Sunday lunches. After my cousins and I had eaten and gathered in the living room, the first thing that everyone did, as if on cue, was to pull out their respective cellphones or iPods. I found this scenario quite sad. What once used to be a noisy family affair teeming with laughter and foolish games had been replaced by a silent assembly of people who were physically, but not mentally present.

The dawn of astounding technological advances and craze for everything Apple spawned this not-so-uncommon problem. Parents have been increasingly complaining about how their kids, with particular attention to teens, hardly ever spend quality time with them anymore.

According to the Summary of Nationwide Findings submitted by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication to UNICEF, two out of five children have at least one computer in their homes. An average Internet user spends at least 4.8 hours a day on the Internet for sending/receiving e-mail messages (89%), connecting with friends (88%), participating in networks (88%), and doing schoolwork (83%). When they take time off from their computers, they switch to gadgets with Wi-Fi connectivity, which allow them to stay online 24/7. In between school and other social events, it’s unsurprisingly difficult to squeeze in enough time for some good old-fashioned talking.

Alarming statistics can validate these parental complaints. As said by BuddeCom and a recent study released by the Nielsen Company, 1.8 billion texts are sent out everyday in the Philippines and kids aged 13 to 17 send approximately twice as many texts than any other age group. Though extreme, the consumption of technology has undoubtedly improved people’s lives to some extent.

The widely available information on the World Wide Web makes international news accessible instantly, and programs like Skype connect people with overseas relatives, who would normally see each other just once or twice a year without it. However, these benefits come at a tall price: A shocking culture that’s a far cry from the one 10 years ago.

When I was five, I was out and running in the playground. Now, my three-year-old cousin spends his day playing Angry Birds on his iPad. Instead of noses buried in printed books, children opt to read off PDFs and eBooks. With Instagram and Facebook, developing photos has become an obsolete practice, which has pushed Kodak, the century-old pioneer in photography, into bankruptcy. Though languishing in poverty, many marginalized people still prefer to spend what little money they have on technology than on basic commodities. To quote a line from the movie, The Social Network, “They Bosnia have no roads, but they have Facebook.”

Why take the trouble to go to a mall when you can shop online and have it delivered to you? Why look up a word in the dictionary when Wikipedia can tell you the definition, history, and even demonstrate its pronunciation?

In the same way, why talk when you can tweet? Why socialize when you can text?

It’s not about removing or banning technology— just moderating it. As our parents always say, too much of anything is bad, and online presence is not an exception. It’s imperative that this issue be addressed lest we find ourselves explaining this foreign concept of communication to our grandchildren 40 years from now. “Back in our day, we used to talk. You know, like, opening our mouths and sounds would come out…”

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