Technologically Advanced or Socially Deficit?

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America is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. With cell phones, Internet, and television all so readily accessible, we have never before been so connected to one another. Friendships can be pursued no matter the how many miles apart, thanks to long-distance calling and unlimited text messaging. Mastering gourmet recipes from your own kitchen is a breeze with Rachael Ray and the Food Network. Stereo systems and HD-TVs bring the thrill of a movie-theater experience to the comfort of your living room. While technology undoubtedly has many positive benefits, it has also destroyed our social skills, converting America into one big high school cafeteria. There's no need to ever venture outside your comfort zone when your best friends are constantly in your pocket.

Though ideal for preserving long-distance relationships, technology as a whole further encourages American tactlessness. I can't tell you how many times I've watched a customer go through a grocery checkout line, cell phone glued to ear, without so much as a nod to the cashier. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone mid-text? You could be telling them that they've won the lottery, but all you'll receive in reply is a 'mmhm' (and maybe if you're lucky, a 'yeah, sure'). How many of your neighbors do you know by name? Do we even remember what the word 'neighbor' means?

In my experience as a lifeguard, I daily encounter dozens of technology-distracted patrons. Although a few are more than eager to chat with me, most act as if I rank way under their Blackberry. For every ten 'have a nice days' I offer, I'm lucky to receive so much as a backward glance. And the electronic addiction affects more than just adults. Teens and grade-schoolers alike are too engrossed in their electronics to take notice of others around them; courtesy and manners are not nearly as important as PS3s and Mario Kart.


Rudeness in America is not only accepted, but expected. Wave to someone you don't know and receive a blank stare. Try holding the door open for a teacher and watch their shocked reaction. Drop a few 'ma'ams' and 'sirs' to your parents and revel in the stunned silence. While most of our mothers have taught us how to be polite, have we actually employed those 'please' and 'thank you's'? Common manners are no longer the rule, but the exception. Has being so connected to each other actually disconnected us from society as a whole? When we become so engrossed in our iPhones and our MySpace profiles, we lose sight of what truly matters (hint, it's not your numerous quantities of picture comments).


The good news is, we aren't a lost cause yet. All it takes is one person to say hello to a stranger, to smile for no reason, to let that poor teenager caught mid-road in the turn lane pull in front of us. Politeness is impossible to ignore ' who ever spat in the face of someone who held the door for them? We need to pull our heads out of our electronics and take a good look at the world around us.

I encourage you, the reader, to embark on a mission of neighborly nature. I dare you to do something nice for a complete stranger. Talk to the girl who sits alone at lunch. Ask someone (genuinely) how their day is going. Help that little old lady who's having trouble loading groceries into her car. Most importantly, open your circle, destroy the term 'clique', and let others in. There are a thousand ways to spread non-technological respect in our electronics-obsessed country. If every person in America did one thing ' just one ' to brighten another's day, the intentional acts of kindness would easily number in the thousands.

It's time we heightened our esteem of others and put our priorities into place. By passing on just a moment of kindness, we could defy America's unfeeling standard and create a new social norm. Pulling the plug on our electronic fixation could be the most dangerous, innovative, healthy thing that America has ever done, and all it takes is one person to start it ' you.





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