Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dis-connected from reality

Being “connected” has left us disconnected in ways that are not good. I know, I bring this up a lot, but those hand held devices used to keep everybody in touch, are leaving a generation out of the loop.

On Tuesday, the AU student newspaper had an article by Ashley Pifer about being a “fan” of various things on Facebook. One line stood out, “I am beginning to think that most people have begun making pages in order to make up for the lack of friends that they have outside of the Internet.”, and my reaction was YES!!! Somebody finally gets it! While on break from class, I wandered up through the lounge area. This is a gathering spot with old sofas, a few tables, art on the walls, vending machines nearby and today a platter of free cake was set out for everyone to enjoy. Every seat was taken and yet it was deadly silent. Each one of the students, EVERY ONE of them, had a hand held thingy out and was texting or scrolling or listening, completely engaged in their own laps, and not one of them paid the least bit of attention to those around them. No conversation, no interaction ….nothing, just a big void of humanity in a room full of creative people. What a waste. A waste of time, a waste of talent, a waste of ideas, a waste of friendships, and a waste of inspiration….I could go on, but why bother, nobody is listening. Maybe they were busy becoming fans of something so as to a feel a sense of belonging.

In class itself, during a group critique where students are to discuss their work and learn from each other….about half had a hand in their pockets scrolling something or were just plain rude and sat there texting while the instructor tired to explain why their drawing was less than successful…. I would have just said it sucked, but then I don’t teach right now. I don’t think I could. I would require that all hand held items go into a box to be retrieved only after class. When will it sink in that they are paying for the class time that they are not using?

This leads me to the issue of privacy. Remember the big stink about government listening to some potential terrorist conversations? Goodness gracious did people get all bent out of shape about their right to privacy, yet on their own web pages (World Wide) is everything you could possibly want to know and more. Pictures taken of you that you don’t even know about (remember those hand helds now have cameras!), comments or lies about what you may have said, did, went or believe, lists of preferences accessible by any stalker or identity thief and so on….something else I could go on about but it won’t make any difference. I have had a painting in mind for years now based on the proverbial “Power Couple” which was more appropriate when the economy was robust. I have since renamed it the “Power –Outage-Couple” because though the two figures may still be “in control, top of their game, important movers and shakers”, they are totally clueless (or oblivious) to the world around them. Like those art majors in the lounge, all that talent and inspiration being shared with no one of flesh and blood. Instead, it is getting sucked into a machine much like Dorothy in Oz. It seems real, but it is not, and the lesson to be learned is that there is no place like the here and now of our flesh and blood friendships. (A second lesson is that one should be careful in partaking of food left around art lounges…sometimes the ingredients are not listed in the recipe….)

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