Culture of convenience keeping people apart

In an age in which Starbuck’s has drive-thru windows, roller blades have been affixed to sneakers, friends are “confirmed”, and washing machines have a website you can visit to check the status of your laundry, the quintessential career-driven individual has defined American culture.

We have been imbued with the sense that busyness is a virtue, and every hour of every day is critical. Perhaps these attributes have been fostered by a culture based on individualism, attaining the American Dream, and being a player in the fierce game of competition.

Cell phones, Blackberries, and Palm Pilots have become things that we remember to take with us when we walk out the door instead of the simple wallet and keys. True, these technologies have made it more convenient for us to have everything that we need right when we need it – a culture of convenience indeed. But what is the price we pay for such a culture? If everything involves a ‘give and take’ then what are we losing by such industrious design?

Take a look across campus and you will easily observe that the latest fad is the iPod, a device that can hold thousands of songs, pictures, news magazines and more. Whereas today the word “iPod” is still underlined in red on a word document, tomorrow it will become a part of everyday language and avoid the formidable spell check.

Sure, listening to music while walking to class is invigorating, but has it and the many other devices created for our convenience caused more harm than help? Instead of strolling across the green contemplating the day ahead, or waiting in line making small talk with a stranger, we now walk around with music blaring in our ears. As we replace a hand-written letter with an e-mail and a phone call with a text message, it sadly seems as if this trend towards greater and greater convenience is brewing a society that is losing amicability and trying so much to block out the sounds of life.

In a time where cultural sensitivity is of utmost importance and land masses have been united by globalization, social interaction is key in ensuring the world’s welfare. Instead of modernization, perhaps what we need is enculturation. Instead of contraptions that pull us away from human touch, perhaps what we need are contraptions that bring us back.

It is not about running late and grabbing taco bell. It is not about seeing if you have enough minutes to talk on the phone. It’s about striking a balance and eliminating the influence that iPods, cell phones and other gadgets have in reducing the need for connectivity.

Perhaps next time you walk out of your dormitory or leave a classroom and reach for your cell phone or iPod, you may instead choose to catch up with a friend or walk with a stranger, slowing down your pace and enjoying the little things that matter most in life.

Shelly Garg can be contacted at