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Tue January 20, 2004
Talk is Cheap
Cell phones give new meaning to an old phrase.
By Catherine McCall
Wilmington NC – [Click the LISTEN button to hear Catherine's commentary.]
At the outset of this commentary I feel compelled to disclose that I am not much of a phone talker, never have been. Apparently I am more in the minority than I ever realized. These days if you?re not talking while driving, or talking while shopping, or talking while walking, then there is a little snip of dismissal in the air. If you?re not talking on a cell phone then you are decidedly not ?in.?
I?m more accustomed to being ?out? than ?in? anyway, but one question still gnaws at me: What is everyone talking about?
I should clarify. I?m all for talk as a valuable means of communication. I make my living listening to people talk about their thoughts and fears and worries and dilemmas--I certainly value the importance of spoken expression and the spawning of ideas that can emerge from such an exchange.
What I?m curious about is more accurately described as chatter. Wireless communication has ushered onto the planet an exponential increase in the volume of human chatter. Streams of rushing digits zoom into orbit, bounce off satellites and tumble down into our ears. Billions of ?ands? and ?like?s? and ?whatever?s? criss-cross the globe at faster than lightening speeds, certainly faster than one can formulate a thoughtful answer to a meaningful question.
To what end? What is so urgent that people have to talk while they?re perusing the salad dressings, or while they?re sitting in a bathroom stall? I mean, honestly.
To counter, cell phones certainly add a major convenience component to our jam-packed, speed-obsessed days. And with public pay phones going the way of the dinosaurs, cell phones are being deemed more essential than ever before.
I?m not trashing the hand-held techno-wonders?I actually own one. It?s one of those cute little silver jobs with a picture of a walking Panda bear on it. The thing is probably capable of piping in pictures from Mars, if I knew how to really use it, which I don?t. I check messages, answer calls, close the thing up and plop it back in my purse.
Then I watch other people pulling out of their driveways or their parking spaces, phone already attached to their ear, mouth moving, and again I marvel at all the words spewing from all the mouths all over the planet.
In my opinion, the more chatter there is, the harder it becomes to discern what is truly meaningful.
In our finger-punching quest to always be connected, we are sacrificing time spent in the presence of our own thoughts. Maybe we?re becoming so accustomed to filling our brains with constant pre-packaged stimuli?television, dvd?s, video and computer games?that when we?re away from such machines it?s too uncomfortable to actually have to think. So we flip open that phone and punch away.
In supposedly connecting us to others, what all this chatter is really doing is disconnecting us from ourselves.
Catherine McCall is a psychiatrist who lives in Wilmington.