Our pictures get smaller as our voices get louder. Have we less to show the world and more to tell, or are we afraid to be examined closely, preferring to shout our messages?
This whole topic originates in the modern — the very modern — phone, the one which has been become a cyber Swiss Army Knife.
The question builds on two observations, both anecdotal yet, from accumulated observations across the culture, as credible as any survey could hope to be. They are these:
- people talking on phones in public, and
- people taking pictures in public.
There was a time — think of the old comic book Superman — when telephone booths were a standard element of our landscape. Booths. With doors. Which people closed when talking, because they did not want to be overheard, bothered, distracted.
A telephone conversation was a private conversation. In fact, conversations generally were private. In a restaurant, on a train or plane, even sitting outside in the park. People spoke calmly to one another; now they more often speak, not as if they wanted privacy, but as if they wanted an audience.
No one thought Clark Kent could really change secretly and quickly in a phone booth. The point was, a phone booth was a functional symbol of privacy.
Phone booths went the way of decorum, and phones were planted out in the middle of the mall, banks of them, side by side, with hardly a symbolic wall between them. And this before the arrival of cell phones, or at least before they became standard equipment for everyone over four.
Think now of what happens with a phone conversation in a public place. People talk on phones with no apparent awareness of those around them, although I’m confident that in many instances they are hyper-aware: they are talking at least as much for the benefit of others nearby as for the person at the other end of the connection.
It may happen in absolutely any public place, the men’s room in an expensive restaurant not excepted, nor, of course, the dining room in the same restaurant.
This is a topic which has puzzled and vexed me for years. I’ll consider the “smaller pictures” element in a later post, perhaps tomorrow. And I’ll likely rant and ramble on about it several times after that. You have been warned.