Great False God of Convenience

I was reading an article that discusses the lack of trust and intimacy in today’s world, in connection to the fact that neither of our presidential candidates is particularly trustworthy. Because we Americans brought these two (insert your insulting noun of choice here) to the forefront of national debate, that must reflect somehow on our own inability to trust or to be trusted in.

We live in an age of superficial, illusory contact through computers, social media, texting, and, yes, even blogs. The multiplicity and ubiquity of these interactions has tricked us into believing that we are putting ourselves out there and being open and vulnerable. Unfortunately, the reality is that we are only sealing ourselves up inside our own high fortresses, away from true kinship with others. These “quick and dirty” methods of communication are the product of a culture that has become obsessed with the great false god of convenience.

Much has been sacrificed to this great false god in order to make communication easier and quicker. You know the buzzwords: expediency, efficiency, facilitation… the list goes on. What has been sacrificed? Mostly face-to-face communication and the connections with others that it engenders. Having a real conversation with a person, developing intimacy and trust with her, and getting to know her on a level that goes beyond the superficial all take time, effort, and energy that we are loath to expend.

For the sake of that great false god of convenience, we are always trying to minimize our time spent doing time-consuming things without considering their real value. In an office setting, walking all the way across the building to stop in and ask a coworker a question eats away at our time, so we use Outlook, Skype, and the like. After a while, even phone calls become time consuming because we don’t want to listen to the other person’s verbal tics as they try to get their point across. We want concise emails, with bullet points if possible, so we can scan them (not actually read them! oh heavens, no!) and absorb the salient points as efficiently as possible.

All this businesslike efficiency has bled into our everyday interactions, or lack thereof. At supermarkets, we have self-checkout machines. At the bank, we speak to the teller through a computer screen. We emerge from our workplaces and our homes, put our sunglasses on, and turn our faces downward into the glow of our smartphones so we can avoid the eyes of others. We have so many other terribly important things to do than waste our time with small talk.

But how do connections with and trust in others begin? Very often, they begin through small talk. Very often, they begin slowly. The most worthwhile things in life often take a great deal of time to blossom and come to fruition—and most of us would consider our relationships with others among the most worthwhile things in life. Worshiping at the altar of the great false god of convenience has taught us to demand quick solutions where none are possible.

2 thoughts on “Great False God of Convenience

  1. At my job, a while back I started working with a different department. They share the same area as my regular department — the cubicles at one end of the room are one department, and the other end of the room is the other department. (And it’s not a huge room — maybe 40-50 cubicles.)

    The first thing that they did was give me a sheet of paper with all of their phone extensions. My response (politely) was: “You’re right there. I can poke my head up and see you. Why would I call you on the phone — I can just walk over and talk to you!”

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