Ann Bednarski: Technology can't replace human interaction

We rarely talk face-to-face anymore. Is this the price of modern technology? Yesterday I talked face-to-face with someone I had not seen in a long time. However, we shared many phone calls and e-mails and though I do not "tweet" or "text," he does and often. It struck me when I was actually talking with him that many of his thoughts and opinions were in his eyes sometimes defying his own words. In them I saw sadness, fear, frustration, joy, peace and love all in the course of a 25-minute meeting. Just noticing those feelings that cannot be transmitted electronically, I could not help but think we are missing so much in life by surrendering to technology.

For many people the only other people they see are on television, reading a script. Our information comes from them. On talk shows there are emotions emitted but these people are strangers to us and neither the viewer nor the TV personalities have the advantage of knowing how their words were perceived. That's one-way communication.

I watched a little boy at a rally taking in all the noise and excitement the crowd exuded. Neither laughing nor crying, he was looking at different people intensely and, I thought, trying to figure all this out and how it relates to him. Chances are excellent he had no one to ask; they were too busy.

On Sunday I looked over the Appeal's TV Listings, laughing at how many sports events were in it for Sunday and Monday. I wondered when people spend quality, one-on-one time with their mate or children. I know it is a capital crime to try to speak to a sports fan during a game - baseball, football, basketball and even hockey. Being a sports fan is a safe thing that exempts you from getting involved in anything that affects you or your family, especially during a game; somehow it seems all games are more important than anything else. I like sports, but only in my spare time.

Television, a tool to provide information, has become the vehicle to set standards of behavior. The quality of programming has taken a huge dive into the very bizarre, violent and prurient world. Wow! Our social mores and values are sinking at an alarming rate. I seldom watch network television. However, I see commercials for upcoming "family" programming. It makes me sick; young people have no examples to emulate but cheap, trashy or violent, foul-mouthed TV personalities.

Recently I saw an ad for a new show where a young woman is going to a job interview (I think) and once there, announced to the men interviewing her that she is not wearing any underwear. A show has been on for years about two brothers and a child only encourages and glorifies casual sex and regularly, seriously shows contempt for their mother/ grandmother.

I used to like "Dancing with the Stars" as the dancing, music and costumes were interesting and well done. Even this show has become more about perverted sex than dancing. The other show I enjoyed a lot was "The Amazing Race." Contestants go to exotic places; the viewer gets to see customs and landscapes of faraway places that are very interesting. I was having a late dinner when that show came on and before long one of the tasks for contestants was to pick up dead rats. Yes, rats. I saw rats and got sick to my stomach. Is this family entertainment?

Regularly, I see parents so perplexed by their children that they do not know how to help them. Generally, parents try to buy their children's love. The truth is, kids are pretty smart and "play" their parents very well. We see in the crime, drug and teen-age pregnancy problems something is still missing no matter how many cellphones, computer games or gadgets we buy our children.

The schools are not parents; they are supposed to be teaching basic skills in math and reading. A moral compass is missing there too and parents cannot depend on the schools to act as parents, nor should they.

My quest is to challenge you to go for a whole day not using your computer to communicate with friends; only for necessary business. No television. Use that TV time to talk and look at your children, your mate, your mother or your neighbor. Read something together, taking turns, and talk about the story you read. Use the dictionary together; it is one of the greatest tools in your house. Make cookies or dinner together. Do not succumb to the powerful pressure of the television, telephonic devices, tweets or texts. You might be pleasantly surprised!

• Ann Bednarski of Carson City is a career educator and journalist.


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