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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Guest Column: The age of silence

It is said that in today’s world, thanks to social media, people connect more than they ever did in the history of man.

I don’t think so. Today’s youth (and an alarmingly growing number of adults) text. They don’t call, they hardly meet, they just text. Some may call this connection; I call it a telegraph, just as clipped, voiceless and impersonal.

Before the internet, we used to write letters. And when I say letters, we’re talking poetic, handwritten flattering words, each page sweetly scented with perfume or cologne. Though slow in reaching the recipient, those envelops were well worth the wait. And once opened, we read those letters twice, thrice, even four times.

Then came the phone calls: endless hours spent talking, listening to her laugh at the things you said, which lay the groundwork for a date; a picnic perhaps, or a movie, or just hanging out.

Of course, it wasn’t always sunshine and happiness; there were also the letters that came unscented, with tidings of you being dumped. Phone calls answered by someone else other than her, telling you she wasn’t in, even though you could hear the girl you wanted to talk to whispering instructions in the background.

But, good or bad, back then, people connected. A handwritten letter is personal; typeface text is as anonymous as a ransom note. A voice on the phone communicates more than just the words being spoken. And no emoji in the world can take the place of real hugs and kisses. Sight, sound, touch, smell, taste — this is connection.

Today, take a look around, you’ll probably spot that young man standing outside the movie theatre, twiddling away on a touchscreen. His frown and intensity give the impression that he is punching in codes to deactivate a nuclear launch but no, it’s nothing that serious, other than that his date didn’t show up. If he had spoken to her on phone instead of texting, there’s a good chance he would have heard it in her voice that she wasn’t too keen go out with him in the first place.

By text, we now meet, converse, date, fight, break up, make up, shout and laugh out loud without making a sound. We talk to each other devoid of intonation of speech or facial expressions, preferring to type instead where not a word is uttered.

Welcome to the age of silence.

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