The Terrors of Technology

"Technology" by Sephko is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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The coffee shop is filled with the soft light of the setting sun. My friend and I sit at our favorite table, the one against the far wall. I am in the midst of telling a story that has potential for stand-up comedy success. I’m using hand gestures for emphasis, my voice rising and quickening in anticipation: “…and before I could think better of it, I grabbed my shoe and hurled it….” But just as I arrive at the climax, I’m jolted from my narration by two urgent electronic buzzes. 

My sentence halts, suspended in the air like my catapulted shoe. I glare at the culprit, resting innocently on the tabletop. My friend’s eyes shoot to the source as well. She instantly forgets her surroundings, absorbed in the alternate world of her illuminated screen, the personification of temptation and addiction: my enemy, the infamous iPhone. 

The device steals her attention for precious moments. I impatiently wait for her to break free of its clutches, but time drags on as her thumbs fly, and I find myself eyeing the other customers in boredom. Dusk is quickly fading into night, and with it comes a sense of horror. The face of every customer is spotlighted by the artificial light of their screens. I am surrounded. My cherished café with its smooth jazz and stacks of books has been invaded by zombies scrolling mindlessly through social media and squandering their lives in virtual reality. 

My friend finally looks up from her phone with a cringe. She apologizes, saying, “Sorry, keep going! I want to hear the end,” as if two minutes hadn’t just passed. But she’d unknowingly betrayed my trust by conspiring with the enemy. A burning abhorrence for this device, camouflaged in its glittery case, writhes inside me. 

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

I find that I am surrounded by these enemy forces wherever I go. The endorphin rush of technology has led to a culture of distraction and soundbites, and many are too drawn to screens to interact with others, go outside for a breath of fresh air, or find their creative outlets. 

While I acknowledge the benefits of technology to empower us with speed and information, I question whether we are experiencing the destruction of language. Has communication withered to Orwellian “Newspeak,” simplistic and devoid of depth, complexity, or eloquence?

Handwritten letters are a lost art form, punctuation is overrated, and hashtags reign. As a member of the iGeneration, I find the notion of syntax may be as foreign to my friends as the Japanese word “emoji” is to my grandparents. 

I have grown up reading the romantic sonnets of Shakespeare and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, which profess love in the most elegant and timeless forms. I learned cursive by reading and replicating the handwritten letters between my grandparents, written during the Vietnam war when they were separated for a year. Every word has meaning, every phrase elicits feeling. While I yearn to see similar sentiments in my own life, the language I often read is butchered into minimalist, informal, and distant messages, or possibly just a Snapchat picture with an emoji heart. 

Vacuous and impermanent Textspeak has oversimplified the language in our society and our relationships in many ways mirror this. My arch-nemesis has brainwashed an entire generation to measure its self-worth on liked posts, retweets and snaps. My interaction at the coffee shop is a small but terrifying glimpse of the enemy: infinite scrolling and touchscreens glowing. A zombie apocalypse is upon us.