Whatever smart devices do, they can’t take the place of regular phone chats with my mother
Face it: Smart devices, while useful, can’t hold a candle to direct conversation
Who would have thought commenting about penmanship, o-rings, oil changes and missing buttons would strike such a chord with you, Gentle Readers? A number of you responded to “Once-vital skills are becoming obsolete” (Dec. 16).
B. Hawkeswood pointed out an omission — the art of conversation. “Youngsters today seem to use their phones or i-Pads for communicating. What is going to happen in the future, are we going to have a silent population?”
It might not come to that. The overall population might be less socially deft. People who can converse comfortably and connect respectfully with others in person might become fewer. However, competent human interaction and communication are basic human life skills, with evolutionary advantages that will always be rewarded.
We’re social animals. We need direct, face-to-face interaction, as studies on the dire effects of loneliness on seniors’ health attest. The effect of tens of thousands of years of living together and navigating shifting social landscapes won’t disappear.
I’m not speaking of the traits linked to extroversion — sociability, garrulousness, boldness — that are so highly valued in North America. I’m speaking of being able to communicate clearly and of being able to relate to others positively.
Despite all the technology we surround ourselves with, we still have to live together and get along. Those who can do so will always have an edge.
And, considering how loud and obnoxious my teenage friends and I were when we hung out together, I don’t mind when kids silently text each other on the bus.
J. Abrams, of Victoria, suggests the act of looking up words in the dictionary, knowing how to dial old-style rotary telephones and telling analog time are ancient history.
Just as some once-common skills are becoming obsolete, so, too, are some oncefamiliar tools.
For example, my first watches were of the old-fashioned wind-up variety — remember when you had to wind up your watch every day to keep it from, well, stopping? I’ve successfully lost every single watch I’ve ever owned, but at one point in the late-1990s, I decided I needed another wind-up watch. Alas, time and technology had moved on. No affordable watches with winding spring mechanisms could be found, and it made little sense to invest large sums in something I was just going to lose.
Then I got a smartphone. It tells time accurately. Well, it tells Apple time accurately — I have to trust that the one equals the other.
The phone doesn’t come with a minute hand on its face or a rotary dial, but I bet there’s an app to do that.
And the device does so many other, often helpful, sometimes annoying, smartphone things. It provides quick access to online dictionaries — as well as providing sometimes-irritating autocorrect and autofill suggestions — when I want to look up spelling. It’s great for making notes, emailing people, updating and responding to posts on social media and even — egads — allowing telemarketers and survey takers to interrupt me almost anytime and anywhere. It doesn’t, however — and can’t — take the place of my weekly telephone conversations with my mother.
But like analog clocks, watches and printed dictionaries, it’s a tool. I can turn it off, leave it at home and let its battery drain so that it, well, stops. I can also lose it more easily than a watch.
If that worried me, I would get a smart watch, which I would almost certainly lose.
D. Stocks, of Victoria, recommends that I lose the term “snail mail,” which I used to refer to regular postal delivery. “It is hurtful to postal workers, as some of them taught me a few years ago,” he says.
Point taken. The post is neither run nor delivered by snails, but by some great folks who managed to get my holiday parcel to my mom by Dec. 24. And, whatever the weather, my letter carrier always has a smile and a cheery wave when I see him.
On the other hand, I think snails might be running my laptop — a tool I purchased nine years ago, use almost daily since and am deeply attached to in a completely impersonal but entirely dependent way.
I can easily live without my smartphone, but please don’t let me lose my laptop.