Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

The Anti-Social Network

In the July 10 issue of the Chicago Tribune, columnist Fred Mitchell writes about the recent trend of ballplayers spending more time in the locker room texting, checking Facebook, playing video games and watching TV than actually commiserating with their colleagues.  He writes:

Times have changed from the days of ballplayers playing cards in the middle of the locker room, leafing through fan mail in front of their lockers, reading the newspaper or playfully teasing each other.

This might be a rather nostalgic view of the past, but it’s one I happen to share.

The potentially negative consequences of recent technological changes came to my attention about three years ago, when I noticed that parents picking up and dropping off their children at my home were no longer poking their heads in for a hello.  In fact, some of the kids we’ve hosted through the years have parents I have yet to meet.  Don’t know their names.  Couldn’t pick them out in a lineup.  That’s not only a shame, it’s kind of scary.  One of our seemingly endless list of parental responsibilities is knowing the parents of our children’s friends.

In the short six months I’ve owned a cell-phone, I’ve resorted to the anti-social behavior of texting my kids to let them know I’m waiting outside to take them home, but this is a habit I intend to break, extreme weather notwithstanding.   Generally, there’s time to say hello to people, and in life, there’s almost always room for a few more acquaintances.  Sometimes these acquaintances make my day.

Last week, I spoke to a parent at the pool for a good twenty minutes, and the conversation was so animated, so full of gems I couldn’t make up in a million years, I wrote our dialogue down as soon as I returned home, hopeful that I’ll be able to use it in a piece of fiction.  What if, instead of chatting, we’d both opted to check our email?  A more efficient use of our time, perhaps, but a real loss in social interaction.

Of course, technology isn’t responsible for all anti-social behavior.  This morning, it took one of my daughters ten minutes to acknowledge my existence, but I believe that sort of conduct began long before the cell-phone, the TV or even electricity.  And I also believe that time will help buck that trend.  If not, perhaps my incessant nagging will.

Copyright, 2017, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved