Commentary

Technology Has Created the ‘Silent Generation’

Charlie Daniels
By Charlie Daniels | March 27, 2015 | 3:13 PM EDT

People use mobile devices while waiting in line to purchase the iPad outside the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York, April 3, 2010. (AP Photo)

Whether you're at a fast food outlet, an airline gate, at a ballgame or just walking down the street, if you were to count the number of people either talking or texting on cell phones you'd probably be utterly amazed.

When an airplane lands the first thing that happens, people start pulling out their cell phones, checking for messages, making calls or maybe it's just force of habit. They simply can't help it. It's become such a big part of their lives.

Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against technology. Although I am a latecomer to the scene, I have two cell phones – one for interviews and one personal – and an iPad that I take everywhere I go. And I must admit, they have simplified my life tremendously.

There was a time, if I had a media interview, I had to hang around a landline all day, forgoing any activity that took me away from the proximity of a telephone. Now I can do interviews in a golf cart, on a fishing dock or just riding around the ranch on a four-wheeler.

I read the Bible and several spiritual based books on a daily basis, and when I used to leave home on a trip, the case I carried with me was bulging at the seams with books. Now it's all contained on one thin little iPad.

The iPad is also good for a disorganized songwriter, who has partially filled notebooks of lyrics lying around – goodness knows where – many of them lost forever along with bits and pieces of songs that will never reach fruition.

Now I have only one place to look.

Email is also another real convenience for me, as I'm the kind of person who has great ideas at odd times and needs to convey them while they're on my forgetful mind. I also get ideas at times when it would be extremely bad manners to give somebody a late night phone call, but now I can just type it up and mail it, and I love the instant global contact Twitter makes possible.

Although, my son, Charlie Jr., has had to practically drag me kicking and screaming into this age of new communications technology, I must admit that it has made a positive difference in my life, business and personal.

However, my generation comes from a time of dial telephones, party lines, telegrams and letter writing. There were no area codes, and if you wanted to make a long distance call it meant, in the case of the party line, you had to sometimes wait for someone to get off the line, dial an operator, give them the number and wait while they dialed it. Evidently, it’s such a convoluted process that it was beyond the ability of the less informed hoi polloi.

To be able to hold a small device in your hand, and without the aid or input of another human being, contact a person on the other side of the planet is, and always will be, to people of my generation, about two cuts below an outright miracle.

I guess each generation tends to take for granted the gains made by the proceeding ones. I remember when President Truman dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nobody knew what it was, how it worked or where it came from, only that it basically ended the war in Japan in a few days.

We had no idea that we had just been introduced to the nuclear age with all its pluses and minuses, the power that had the ability to bring great good to mankind but at the same time cast an eternal shadow of destruction across the entire world.

The next generation just took it in stride, took it farther, and now we have nuclear power plants, nuclear medicine and nuclear submarines, all taken for granted by this generation.

And that's my point. The current generation, Generation X, Y, Z – or whatever the nom du jour would be – just as lost using a dial telephone as I was using my first brick-sized cell phone. The idea of actually using "snail mail” rather than email is laughable, and most of them would be completely lost behind the wheel of a standard stick shift automobile.

Now that's just a seismic shift that happens every time a new generation comes along, but at least in my ancient but honest opinion, this generation has become so dependent on present day technology, they'd be totally lost without it.

The other day I heard of a case where a 12-year-old girl in Boulder, CO., tried to poison her mother (twice) for taking away her iPhone.

And the ability of a coward to hide behind an avatar and say nasty and many times untrue things about other people has been a real problem amongst the teenagers and has been responsible for several suicides, a problem that needs to be addressed immediately and harshly.

When is the last time you saw a young person sit in one spot for over five minutes without using a cell phone?

We could call this new generation the “Silent Generation.” Have you noticed that if two teenagers are sitting in the back seat of a car, they are just as apt to be texting rather than talking to each other?

Then there's one of my pet peeves, the guy who walks down the aisle of an airplane with so many carry-ons he looks like a pack mule and talking on a cell phone at the decibel level of a stadium PA system, telling the world that tonight when he gets to Cincinnati he'll call Pete in Omaha and inform him that the order is in the system.

Then there's the driver ahead of you ignoring the green light, staring at the screen of a cell phone with both thumbs flying, and the person on the street headed toward you full tilt paying rapt attention to texting but none at all to the person they're about to crash into.

If I call my 17-year-old grandson, I'm more than apt to reach his voicemail, and if it's not full, I can leave a message for him to call me … eventually, or I can text and get an immediate response.

Brave new world?

I honestly don't know, but I am thankful that I've had a chance to sample it from both sides of the technology explosion and assimilate it into my life casually, appreciating each new advance from the polio vaccine to the development of space travel to nuclear power and all the other wonders that have come along in the 78 years I've spent on this earth.

And I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the entertainment aspects of my iPad on long plane flights, finding out the weather in the cities on my schedule in advance, using GPS to find a golf course, asking Siri who the 10th President of the United States of America was or humming a few bars of a new song idea into my cell phone so I won't forget it later.

Yes, technology has changed my life, but I can still build a fire, drive a stick shift and write a letter, and if I absolutely had to, I could use one of them old dial telephones.

What do you think?

Pray for our troops and the peace of Jerusalem

God Bless America

Charlie Daniels

Charlie Daniels is a legendary American singer, song writer, guitarist, and fiddler famous for his contributions to country and southern rock music. Daniels has been active as a singer since the early 1950s. He was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry on January 24, 2008.


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