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Technology breeds paranoia?

May 23, 2008

I recently saw a conversational thread on Twitter where someone said, basically, that if they were lost in a strange city, they would ask their Twitter network how to get around, instead of asking people walking by on the street.

I was kind of amazed. And I’m an introvert– people drain my energy rather than give me energy, so I’m really comfortable dealing with people at a technological distance, over the ‘net. I’d understand it more if they were deaf, like me. But these are hearing people. 

Most of the people who use Twitter are probably younger than I am, at 55, I’m probably their parents’ generation (and not having kids myself it amazes me that I could have kids in their 30s). They grew up with more access to computers and phones and technology than I did. But I’m wondering if their easy access to technology– dealing with people at a distance– has made them paranoid, or at least distrustful of people in the street. They trust their Twitter network, strangers at the other end of the phone or computer or pager, more than the strangers looking them in the eyes.

Or maybe it’s the violence on TV and in the movies? I love a good mystery or action film, but I don’t believe it. That is, I suspend disbelief only for the duration of the show, knowing that real life isn’t that dramatic for most people. 

I’m friendly to folks on the street, especially if I’ve seen them more than a couple of times. Since I’m deaf, I usually can’t talk with them easily, I just say hi, or something. And, for some reason, if people are lost and there are 20 other folks on the street, it’s me they come up to and ask for directions– probably because I actually look into their faces. I don’t assume that people are out to get me or take advantage of me, but I’m also not naive and don’t automatically think I’m safe. I balance friendliness with caution, trusting my instincts.

Maybe that’s it, perhaps those who’d rather twitter for directions, instead of ask people who are there, haven’t learned to trust their instincts because they haven’t been interacting with the people in front of them enough. I don’t know. But when I see video of a city street nowadays, an awful lot of those folks are walking with phones to their ears, focusing on the interactions with those at a distance, and not looking in the eyes of the folks around them.

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