Yesterday, I was on the WHA radio program "Here on Earth," talking about blogging. Though most of the show was about how blogging was affecting journalism, what I ended up talking about was how blogging was affecting life. One caller expressed the concern that more and more of life was taking place staring at a computer screen: should we not be alarmed at the loss of face-to-face human relations? There are a number of answers to this question. One is that you actually do form some connections that lead to face-to-face interaction, such as when bloggers meet for dinner. Another is to focus on what the use of computers is replacing. Using the computer has more potential for connecting to other people than watching television--that other lit-up screen. But what interested me the most was how the caller's concern is the concern raised about every advance in technology.
Weren't people worried that the telephone would prevent anyone from ever bothering to go out and visit someone else? And what about central heating? Maybe people won't snuggle up in bed anymore. And what about writing? If people write things down, they won't talk to each other anymore. If books are published and people learn to read, everyone will choose to engage with the thoughts of the very best minds from all of human history, and who then will bother to speak with the person he happens to meet on the street in his home town? Put down that book, young lady, and go outside and play with your friends!
It occurred to me, after the show, that a similar objection would have been made, had it been possible, to the invention of language itself. Once people can transform real life into these noisy abstractions, how will we ever love and cavort in the real, physical world in that intense, beautiful way that we always did in the past?