Thursday, November 1, 2012

Visiting vs. Selling Out

By Julie Keith

I spent the evening visiting.  Yes I said ‘visiting.’  It’s this seemingly forgotten thing people used to do before the age of technology where chatting on the computer and telephone pass as interaction.  It works fairly simply.  You go over to someone’s house and spend time sitting around a room talking and in general spending time together. There is no watching television, no showing of the latest computer technology or even showing off of the latest technology one has acquired or using of the latest technology.

I realize the idea of just talking or playing games together is a lost concept in today’s high paced, technologically advanced world.  Why is it that now when people do make the effort to drive over to someone’s house, there has to be some distraction involved like watching television or playing on a phone or computer?  When did television become such a central focus of society?  There is this feeling of “Oh I have to watch the newest episode right now.”  Some people can’t even bear the thought of recording a program and watching it later rather than watching it while they have company.

I really don’t get it.  The reality shows are fake and the sitcoms use the same jokes over and over again.  Originality is a thing of the past.  So why do we feel compelled to watch them? I’d rather go visit someone and listen to the same stories over and over again than sit on my couch and watch mindless television.  Honestly, I do just that.  We regularly visit my husband’s uncle who is 89 and used to visit his 90 some year old aunt and grandmother when they were alive.  I heard the same stories repeatedly but it was alright because the stories were real.  These things really happened and that made them worth listening to and the actual interaction with the person made it worth listening to over and over again.

Watching actors portray fake characters every week, tell fake, absurd stories or playing games on a phone should not be a substitute for real live human interaction.  Social interaction is just different than interacting with technology.  You gain something from visiting with people that you can’t replicate with technology.  Technology is all based on mathematical algorithms, they are designed to act certain ways – people and life are not.  There is some uncertainty in every human interaction, in every actual visit.

As a writer, the real life stories and real reactions of real people is simply irreplaceable.  Sure written stories involve characters, but the best characters, the ones we really love are based on real people.  We relate to characters which resemble us in small ways.  We can identify with their struggles and we care about their problems.  Experience breeds better writers.

On a similar note, after our visit ended and we started the drive home, we passed that monstrosity of wealth, Churchill Downs.  Standing like a beacon of wealth amid the small, poor houses nearby, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before it swallowed up the surrounding area entirely into one gigantic parking lot. 

Passing one small singular house sitting adjacent to the Downs, I asked out loud, “Why is it that these people haven’t sold out yet?  They are one of the only houses left on the street and I’m sure Churchill Down has offered probably three times what the house is worth – so why don’t these people just sell out already?”  My husband’s answer was simple – they are probably elderly and just refuse to move.  Maybe they don’t want to have to deal with the hassle of moving.

It seemed strange to think of anyone not selling out.  Doesn’t everyone have a price and does it really matter?  Is it worth it?  Regardless of the stand these people have taken, eventually they will be gone and their house will be sold and Churchill downs will increase its parking space by a few more yards. 

It was a sad reminder of just how much the world has changed.  It made me think of how much technology has taken over the world and apparently over our souls.  We spend so much time watching television and movies.  We spend untold amounts of money on products advertised during these programs and yet no one blinks an eye.  We are selling out as people.  Selling out as a society, giving up our natural abilities to entertain ourselves without technology.

I guess that makes me old fashioned and somewhat hypocritical.  Here I am using the internet, that massive beast of technology, to send my words to people everywhere.  Yet when it comes to social interaction, I find I prefer being in the actual presence of other people.  I would rather be in the same room with them than chatting over a telephone or computer when possible.  I realize for some who are very far away from loved ones, it is the only option, but for others they are substituting such interaction for actually being there. 

To those who are substituting when actual visiting is an option, I recommend making the drive.  You might be amazed at what you can learn from really being present.  Even with all of the technology at our fingertips, people don’t live forever.  We all have a finite amount of time and once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.  Video tapes of loved ones just can’t replace their actual presence and once they’re gone, their stories go with them.  You may never learn all there was to know about them.  You may miss childhood stories about them or about yourself. You may miss their unique view of the world that they may not have been comfortable sharing over a telephone.

  • So for everyone out there selling out to technology, take a step back.  Take a few steps back until you can clearly see the real world and all the real stories that await.

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