Opinion: Thumb-driven communication

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Even as another “breaking” news story is pushed out on social media or live broadcast by some beleaguered, up-and-coming reporter striving to make a name for himself as he risks life-and-limb in reporting from a hurricane zone, one wonders if a little less instantaneousness might make more sense. Sometimes, are we better off to reflect a bit before we commit to the world our first and spontaneous thoughts?

Sitting in any coffee shop, one is entertained and, frankly, impressed by the thumbability of the collected masses. Folks attack their smartphones ferociously. In moments, they have messaged scores, or millions, with whatever may be crossing their minds. It might be an observation about the lovely morning, or the objectionable nature of the person standing in front of them on cue, or the state of modern Korean detente. Whatever the message, it is delivered nearly immediately and often with little intentional thought. Some of us live in a world where impulse dictates action.

As communication technologies evolved, Gutenberg took great care to select topics for distribution. Martin Luther came to know his publishers personally to ensure their support in circulation. Franklin and other Founding Fathers pushed hard for a national mail service. Ultimately, telephone operators connected calls, personally introducing the caller to the recipient. A one ringy-dingy, two. Even most recently, folks had to find a telephone, attached to the wall, and rotary dial a single intended target. Were we better served when our impulses were more constrained?

What harm is done when our drunk-dial is not directed only at a person we know but instead broadcast to the universe – friend, foe and future alike?  If poor judgment, even in a weak moment, becomes a permanent scar, how do we cope? If we let our thumbs do the talking, is our brain taking the backseat?


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