This past Thanksgiving we were kindly invited to our neighbour's house to share the traditional meal. The family has two daughters, aged 10 and 14 (I think). The younger of the two busily entertained other young guests during the afternoon/evening, but the older of the two was busily engaged in Instant Messaging on AOL.
This brought home something I have been thinking about for a while. A lot of gadgetry is sold as "helping you remain connected," when in fact what it really does is pull you away from your immediate surroundings. People engaged in intense cellular conversations or engrossed in MP3s are often not paying attention to their surroundings. They are enveloped in their own technological, portable, electronic aura.
I am always amazed when I see people together, and one of them has headphones on, or is glued to their cellphone. Even on what is obviously a date. This kind of behaviour, even if it is considered 'acceptable' by the people involved, has to have some sort of subtle psychological impact on relationships. Certainly, it makes the "you're not listening to me" argument very strong, and that's not a good place to start with someone...
And this is not just a recent phenomenon. I suspect that radio was the end of many backyard fence conversations, and that television spelled the end of America's front porch.
I hope electronic messaging is not the end of family conversations.