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Conversation loses out to technology

Is faster and more really better for everyone or just for the young? Is it better for the young in age or spirit or both? I assume that some of my young relatives or friends must think I’m still living in bygone days. They say one of the ways I demonstrate that is by my pleasure in watching Lawrence Welk on Saturday night TV. Welk and his orchestra group have been on TV for more than 50 years.

It isn’t only watching Welk, but I give other evidence of slowing down. I don’t go out as much at night; when going out, I am apt to come home while the young are just getting geared up for a good time. My oldest grandson summed it up in another way, “How in the name of Zeus” am I getting by without a cell phone? Nor do I have an iPad. Am I totally unaware of the modern conveniences now available for the in-crowd?

One saving grace for the old curmudgeon is that I do have a computer and am on the internet. Since other older folk may read this column, I felt that I should speak out for the old fogies who don’t always speak readily or loudly enough to be heard.

I remember when people had time for leisurely talk with each other. They would have looked askance at someone texting during a family get together, and even sometimes at the dinner table. What has happened? They have, at their fingertips, immediate involvement with pictures of the whole wide world. I sit there thinking, “What has happened, what is happening?” Innovators tell me that we haven’t seen anything yet.

I’m not sure I’ll miss seeing what all is promised. It was very rewarding in the old days, when neighbors really knew each other. Even when telephones came into being, neighbors wouldn’t have received interruptive calls after you’d walked over to visit with them. Is that improvement? Or when you meet one of your friends at the grocery store or wherever and are enjoying your conversation, all at once you are interrupted by loud talking; someone, very nearby on their cell phone. Smart phones now!

We haven’t just lost our calm and quiet time, we’ve lost the pleasure of those leisurely conversations. Everyone is in a hurry too much of the time. Time for chit chat is less available. It is true that more information is available to us in a shorter time span? Are we using it better? Are we making fewer mistakes? Crowded prisons and unnecessary wars wouldn’t be the evidence that we are. Is there any evidence that we are doing better since we are able to do more and do it faster?

Is it possible that our spastic digital culture is scrambling our brains? Is it possible that we could, after losing more of our leisure time, lose the capacity for reflective, contemplative and intuitive thought?

Bernie Hughes, Ed.D, is a retired educator who resides in Superior. He can be reached at