Dope I Mean Validation

A friend of mine shared an article on social media earlier today highlighting the growing phenomenon of death by cellphone. It seems that globally, talking on cellphones while driving is being replaced as the hobby of choice by the million-times-more-crazy-deadly texting and messaging on cellphones while driving.

Global society is trending towards increasingly impersonal modes of communication. FaceTime, Skype and the like may have increased the access for face to face communication but it pales into insignificance when you weigh it up against the volume of communications conducted solely via a keyboard. Why call when you can send an email? Why email when you can send a WhatsApp? Why stand behind a reasoned and logical argument when you can hide in the shadows and cause a shitstorm on Twitter?

I heard the CEO of Telkom (the main fixed line supplier here in South Africa) in an interview the other night referring to fixed line and voice-calling as their legacy businesses. That statement actually made me gasp, but he’s got a point. People just aren’t talking as much, and there is a twenty-four-hours-in-a-day ceiling on voice calls. With data the sky is very much the limit.

Many of my closest friendships and relationships are based almost entirely around impersonal modes of communication. Not even a decade ago this would have been inconceivable. I consider my fellow editors on Literally Stories as good friends, yet I have met none of them and have no idea what any of their voices sound like. The person who shared this article with me is one of my closest friends yet we have met face to face perhaps twice in the last five years and seldom, if at all, speak on the phone.

Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to be able to hang out and talk face to face with the aforementioned people but geography and circumstance dictate otherwise and so we all use the tools at our disposal.

Let’s get back to the article I started talking about at the start. A large part of the piece was devoted to unpacking why we are becoming addicted to our cellphones. It seems when we receive a message or a mail our body triggers a dopamine response. I don’t claim to know the full chemistry here but I do know that dopamine plays a big role in the reward centers of the brain. If you want to get a rat to push a lever make sure there’s dopamine in the mix. When I thought about it, this rising phenomenon of sending and checking for messages when driving started to make more sense. Sure, you could wait until the end of your journey, check your phone, have six messages and get a dopamine hit. Or you could check your phone six times and get six hits in the same space of time. And if you factor in the adrenaline surge as you narrowly miss the bus in front of you, so much the better.

I don’t send messages while I’m driving…but I’ve definitely sent some when I’m waiting at the lights or stuck in a traffic jam. Which is also pretty dumb when you think about it. Best case is that you just continue to fuel your addiction, middle ground is that you annoy the shit out of the guy behind you when the lights change and worst case is that someone smashes your window, grabs your phone and knifes you because you weren’t paying attention.

What the article really brought home to me is just how much these impersonal modes of communication mean to me. Writing messages, interacting on forums, spending time on Facebook and Twitter…it’s a constant draw card. Kids being annoying at bath time? I’ll just read a quick article and check my mail. Waiting in the queue at the supermarket? I’ll just send a message to three people, post it on Facebook and hashtag my displeasure on Twitter. That little burst of pleasure when an email arrives or a message pops up…pure addictive bliss.

And the punchline to all this? Once my scribbling is over I’m going to fire this off to a website hoping against hope that people I’ve never met or people I’ve never spoken to or people I didn’t know existed join forces with those people I know exist but I never get to speak to or spend time with to click a button on a webpage and decide they like what I’ve written.

Validation through the kindness of strangers. The new rock and roll.

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11 thoughts on “Dope I Mean Validation

  1. I agree. Oddly enough I spoke to the Waffle about this today. Weird timing. We walked to the big galleria and saw a truck driver text while driving. He’s not going to injure himself but others. It’s illegal in Sweden. Is it also illegal in SA?
    How does my voice sound? (Get ready for the joke, who can miss such a set up?) It sounds like a moose in Tahiti; Sweaty, horny and a little out of place.
    Okay not horny, that one was for the joke. Actually I sound like a girl in a roller coaster, alone and on a rainy day, when the ride stopped working but for some reason I’m singing “Poupée de cire, poupée de son”…
    Yea that’s a pretty accurate description of my voice. A cross between those two. What does your voice sound like?
    ATVB my friend
    Tobbe

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is illegal in SA as far as I know Tobbe but there’s a distinct lack of enforcement it seems. Thanks for clearing up your vocal pitch – I have a complete aural picture of your voice now. As for me, try to imagine if you will a small to medium sized dragon who has accidentally gargled with salt-water and then eaten an entire hive of honey (bees and all) in order to salve his sodium-suffering vocal chords. Now imagine that dragon singing an acapella version of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana with a young hobbit and a Croation choir-girl. I sound nothing like that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such an interesting read. There aren’t many things I enjoy about getting older, but, I’m glad I’m of an age where I can look back really fondly to the days before mobile phones and internet. Current generations will know no different.

    I used to know the telephone numbers of all of my friends by heart, now I don’t even know my own landline number without checking it in my mobile phone contacts!

    New forms of communication are of course not without merit. In an emergency, it’s incredible how connected we all are. On a personal level, the ability to stay in touch with my brother in various forms from the simplest/quickest “hello” via text to a lengthy facetime has made his emigration far more bearable.

    But modern communication has also inherently changed us all on a deeper cultural level I think. It’s bred laziness and provided a cloak to hide behind our own misgivings (as aforementioned in the original post). For example: 20 years ago…. I have to meet someone at an agreed place at an agreed time, so what do I do? I arrive at the agreed place at the agreed time. Today…. I’m running late but it’s ok, I’ll just drop them a quick text, forgetting (or not even considering) that it might annoy that person who got there on time and is now waiting around for me. Two things though, firstly: I’m really anal about being on time so that would never happen. Secondly: the person I’ve hypothetically left waiting has their mobile phone to keep them occupied whilst they’re hanging around so I guess it’s not a big problem.

    The point is though that texting, e-mailing, face-booking etc. has provided us all with a get-out-of-jail-free card for almost any social activity without ever really having to face up to the person you may be letting down. I appreciate, however, that everything is in balance since modern comms also provides a quick and effective way to arrange bringing groups of people together socially….. until they all back out at the last minute via text! Me? Cynical?

    As for dopamine, send me a hand-written letter any day and I’ll be fit to burst.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think your comment was much more interesting than my blog! The cloak to hide behind is a worrying trend – I’ve lost count of the amount times at work I’ve had to drag people off to meeting rooms for a ten minute chat to resolve something they’ve been arguing about on mail for four days.

      Glad you found it as thought provoking as I did.

      Your full reply is in the post hehe 🙂

      Like

  3. I know i am addicted to the internet. In fact as I am writing this a humungous thunder storm has taken out our electric. I am still typing because when it comes back on I can send it. I love the digitial age, love it to bits, it has meant that I can connect with people I would never have known – I can be a published writer – I can hopefully now keep in touch with people I have just met due to a family situation that I had lost touch with for years. All wonderful, but – but – don’t text in the car, don’t call in the car, don’t text in the shop when you are in front of me in the queue, and don’t ever, text instead of talking to your precious baby as you push him/her along in the pram (my heart breaks when I see this) In other words embrace it all – enjoy it all but for heaven’s sake. Keep it real and keep it human.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely spot on Diane. You and I would not be having this conversation if it wasn’t for the digital age – but everything has its time and place and simple, human interaction (if it’s an option) is always the best. Very jealous of your thunderstorm – it’s one of the things I miss about leaving Johannesburg…the storms there were amazing. Living close to the arse end of table mountain gives rise to much drizzle but precious little storm action. I am however joining you (I suspect) in a virtual glass of wine so cheers!

      Like

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