Connected or Disconnected?

Creative Commons Photo by Mike Mozart

Creative Commons Photo by Mike Mozart

A few days ago, I was brainstorming a scene for my upcoming novel. It involved a character who disappeared after returning from a business trip. The character’s last known location was at a convenience store where he purchased gas for his car. That’s the last time anyone sees him.

Okay, nothing unusual about this (except for the part about his disappearance.) A person drives to a convenience store, pulls up to a pump, swipes his credit or debit card, pumps the gas, and then gets into their car and drives away.

Except the event happened in 1991. So, I had to ask myself, “What would we have done in then? Were debit cards in use at that time? Did we pay at the pump or were we required to pay inside?”

Technology has changed the way we live, the way we conduct business, and the way we interact with others. I can’t remember the last time I went inside the convenience store where I most often purchase fuel. I don’t know the name of a single person who works there, and I live in a small town.

When I was a child, my parents bought gas at a full service station. The attendant would come to the car, pump the gas, clean the windshield, and check the oil. He knew his customers by name and they knew him. There was always conversation, even if sometimes it was only about the weather.

Today I shop online, pay for gas at the pump, and the only time I ever go inside the bank is when I need to access our safety deposit box. My husband and I have our paychecks direct deposited. On occasion, if we receive a check in the mail, we can mobile deposit it by taking a photo with our smart phone.

I love modern conveniences and twenty-first century technology. I enjoy interacting on social media. Being able to “Google” when I have a question and receive an immediate answer beats the days of searching through countless reference books at a library.

Yet there are days when I miss those simpler times. I wonder if we are losing the personal touch. Even sometimes the ability to communicate one-on-one.

What do you think? Have we sacrificed personal communication for convenience? Do you think that as we connect more through social media that we have become more disconnected?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • I remember the full service gas days, too. Technology is great, and it has made the world smaller place (you and I wouldn’t know each other without it), but it has also given us the ability to isolate ourselves. I remember the Sandra Bullock movie THE NET… she works from home and knows no one personally. When the bad guys erase her electronic identity, she has no way to prove she’s who she says. Scary stuff.

    Not that I’d want to go back to typewriters again. 😉 Just sayin’.

    • I agree with you. I’m so thankful for technology and that I have “met” good friends like you. I’m a bit of an introvert, so it would be very easy for me to isolate myself somewhat. (I’m married to a very social person, so he would have something to say about that!)

      No, I wouldn’t want to go back to a typewriter. With my spelling mistakes and penchant for errors, I’d probably never write a complete manuscript without my word processor. 🙂

  • La McCoy

    Im excited about your writing!

    • Thank you, La. After a two month hiatus, I’m ready to finish the first draft of that novel!

  • Diana Nesbitt

    Even thought I enjoy and appreciate the good points of social media, I do think it has had a detrimental effect on our ability to interact with one another, especially in face to face communication. Like anything, it can either be used for good or abused.

    • So true, Diana. As Staci pointed out, I’m thankful for social media. (Without it we wouldn’t have connected or have our wonderful Otter group.) Yet it can be abused and so many people (younger ones especially) can’t or don’t communicate well one-on-one.

  • I remember full service gas stations, too. I also remember interacting with the neighborhood grocery store owner and the pharmacist, and we knew their names. While I enjoy technology and wouldn’t want to go back to not using it, it can make us more isolated. I’ve worked from home for 11 years, and before I moved back to my home town, there were days when I didn’t interact with another person all day. I’m an introvert, too, and need the quiet. I realized I needed to poke my head out into the world on occasion. You’re inspired me to write a post on my genealogy blog about how it used to be 🙂

    • I work in a public setting, but most of my interaction is with fellow employees and not the public. Someone (I think it was in our TWFW group) described themselves as an introverted extrovert. That fits me! I look forward to reading your genealogy post.

  • Bittersweet post! We give up the simplicity of nostalgic times for the conveniences of today. So true.

    BTW, like the new look!

    • I wouldn’t want to give up our modern conveniences, such as computers and word processing programs, but I often miss the simplicity of those times. I think, if we try hard enough, we can find a balance between both.

      Thanks for the comments about the site. I’m still working on it. I’ve had blue tones for so long (including my Reflections of HIs Grace blog) that I was ready for something different!

      • I like the different hues and tones, and I like the simplicity of your header. It’s who you are … Joan Hall writes. 🙂

  • kathunsworth

    Joan I think we need a nice blend of both. I love the technology that helps me keep in touch with people like you.

    • I agree, Kath and I’m so grateful for the wonderful community and group of friends I’ve come to know via the internet (especially through Tribe Writers). What saddens me is that the more connected we (people in general) become, we forget the close connections. Have a wonderful week!

  • Here in Italy we are not so “connected”, I still go to the bank, the grocery and there’s someone that puts fuel in my car but I see your point. Technology is great and the result is always bounded with the use we do of it. The risk is that we are so focused on virtual social networks that we forget about the real one.

    A few days ago I was tempted to unfriend on facebook all the people that lives in a reasonable range from me and tell them if they want to see or talk to me they should drop in or call me on the phone. This way I should have kept facebook only to connect with those people who lives really far away.

    Why I didn’t do that? Fear. Of being alone in reality. The illusion of having many friends on the internet keep at bay the fear of not being able of personal touch, as you say.

    • One of the things that bothers me most (and I’ve been guilty) is to see people sitting togther in a restaurant together, but they can’t carry on a conversation because they’re too busy texting or checking social media on their smart phones. I’m easily distracted and I spend far too much time on social media. Andy Traub wrote a post a while back and suggested putting our phones on airplane mode while in restaurants (and while we’re writing, of course).

      Thanks for stopping by. I can’t remember the last time I had an attendant put fuel in my car. Good to know there are still places like that.