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December 30, 2005

kong, and the regression of societal communication

Last night I went to see King Kong, and it was awesome...I kept thinking I'd like to know more about the culture of the nasty human natives of the island as they seemed to have once built extensive architecture across Skull Island, but it appeared their culture regressed once they had to retreat behind the wall. I'm guessing they once held the big dinosaurs back at one point, as maybe they were in cahoots with the giant apes, but once the ape population dropped (constant dino battle casualties or disease?) they had to retreat to the coastline behind the wall and then their society regressed.

And yes, the giant bug scene in Kong was uber-gross, especially those horrid worms. Howabout that hot scruffy Captain Englehorn? And what was going on between cute young Jimmy and his "mentor" Hayes? Smelled like Silverback Mountain to me.

Anyone remember (old me reminiscing again) that 1994 arcade video game Primal Rage? You could play any number of giant monsters worshipped by humans, and you got more 'worship points' for savagely battling other giant monsters. When you won a battle the little humans on the screen would dance and bow down to you.

Speaking of societal regression - kids these days (I can say that now that I'm 35). I'm beginning to get the impression that people under 30 put a lot more value in instant messaging and e-mail than those my age. In three recent cases in communicating with guys who happened to be under 30, there seemed to be a satisfaction on their part to minimize vocal or direct interpersonal communication in lieu of digital text interaction. I'm guessing my grandpa felt the same way about phone communication as opposed to direct personal contact or hand-written letters. In my case, I've found that there is a great reluctance (or avoidance?) for young'uns to use telephone communication, despite the proliferation of cell phones.

To me, and I'm guessing most my age, communicating by digital text is ephemeral and lacks real meaning, whereas I perceive vocal or direct interpersonal communication to be more genuine and a better way to express feeling and intent. Young'uns, on the other hand, may feel that messaging technology is a perfectly good way to interact and perceive e-mails and IMing to be a valid way to communicate. I find that a lot is missing when you can't hear someone speak or see their facial expressions and body gestures. Soon, we too will retreat behind a digital wall to cower from (yet worship from afar) the challenging monsters of feeling, empathy and understanding, thus regressing into savagery and isolation.

Posted by jimbo at December 30, 2005 9:43 AM


I can't agree with you, as I really hate using phones. I prefer the grandpa method or the grandkid method. My main problem is heat generation on my ear, actually. Both my cordless home phone and my high tech Treo phone make my ear sweaty, which is patently unattractive.

Posted by: Glenn at December 30, 2005 10:40 AM

To me (at 37) communicating by text message and IM is merely convenient. That isn't to say it is ingenuine, though. It's quite a leap of logic to say that, because some people may prefer text messages, we must necessarily "retreat behind a digital wall to avoid (yet worship from afar) the frightening monsters of feeling, empathy and understanding, thus regressing into savagery and isolation."

I can only imagine what these under 30 "savages" must said in their instant messages for you to draw such a drastic conclusion.

Posted by: On Second Thought [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 30, 2005 11:52 AM

50 here, and dating a young chicken who's barely 42. He does the text message all the time - which to is a lot more work than hitting a single number on speed dial. Drives me nuts... and feels like junior high school. Dagnabbit!

Posted by: Andy at December 30, 2005 12:05 PM

I agree with the convenience of IMing...but it in no way replaces what I percieve as 'real' communication - that is voice and interpersonal interaction. But that's my perception, and I understand that the youngsters see nothing wrong with interaction limited only to digital text. I don't like it, but that's the way it seems to be.

And it wasn't what was said in the IMs that bother me...it's that the conversation was limited only to IMing or e-mails...kids these days can't talk on the phone or interact in person it seems. And they certainly can't spell, but I blame phonics for that.

My point is illustrated every time I go out when I see somebody standing there alone by him/herself, tip-tapping away, text messaging someone who isn't there in person, even though that person is surrounded by real people with whom he isn't interacting with. I always think that's sad. There's a big digital wall around him, and he's cozy behind it all.

Posted by: jimbo at December 30, 2005 12:09 PM

I'll be the voice of the young 'uns. (29) Here's the thing. First of all, talking on the phone is just as impersonal as text messaging. Secondly, texting is a polite way to communicate. I generally text my when I'm on the bus so I don't become "that guy" on the bus who is loudly talking into his phone. I also text when I need to convey a minimal amount of information with no response or a small response required. Texting saves valuable peak time minutes, and, as a result, money.
As for email--it gives you a voice with which the recipient may not be familiar. It also gives you a chance to say your piece w/o interruption, which you can't do on the phone or in person.
As for the person texting w/ friends around him, that's just uncouth. Step outside, like you were taking a phone call, or respond when you're in the bathroom.
I think you're wrong about the savages. In fact, I think that all of these different ways to communicate will be a boon rather than a hindrance (but what do I know, I'm only 29).

Posted by: jeremy at December 30, 2005 12:32 PM

Nuance is usually lost in text, be it IM, txt message or letters. Letters can usually overcome it by accessing a larger vocabulary, but that requires that the reader has access to the same (or a good dictionary) or that you already have a mutual understanding to bridge the gap. It also depends on the language: English is so wordy, you expect more. In languages with far less words, it's less of an issue.

It took me long time to get into txt messages, mainly because the US was so far behind the tech curve on cell phone tech. Now it is THE way to communicate in noisy enviroments. I've also had a Blackberry for 5 years, so I'm more accustomed to email as well.

Email provides a glorious record for posterity, allowing for great CYA, and sometimes, not so great documentation of actions.

Posted by: copperred at December 30, 2005 1:02 PM

I think you might be inventing the digital wall aroud the 'kid' based on your own us vs. them generational supposition. Do you interact with everyone when you're out and about? Texting sure beats being obnoxious trying to shout over the noise in a bar. And I'm still not sure how you come to the conclusion that the 'kids' can't talk on the phone... I actually hate talking on the phone more as I get older....

And I think Peter Jackson owes me my money back - hire a better editor instead of letting it run on for three hours, and what was with all the monkey pile-driving?

Posted by: sam at December 30, 2005 2:41 PM

Right on about the young'uns and texting. I got all huffy at one point last year and decided that if anyone wanted to talk to me, they had to do just that - TALK to me, via phone or in person.

I had no human contact for 3 weeks and re-installed iChat.

Posted by: johnny at December 30, 2005 2:46 PM

As one of the aforementioned "guys who happened to be under 30" I just thought I should comment on the cozy digital wall. Maybe its just the way my generation was raised, or maybe it was the 4 years of nerdom that I spent at an engineering school, but you're right, most people I know love the email and the IMs and the txt messages. I hardly ever talk on my own phone, maybe because I spend so much time on the phone at work or something, who knows. I know I usually feel awkward talking to someone over the phone whom I've never met before though, regardless of how many emails we've traded. Maybe we're just scared or maybe its just another example of how increased technology brings people together but also keeps them farther apart.

Posted by: Sean at December 30, 2005 2:59 PM

Jimbo's comment is spot on. It's eerie to see people in a public space staring down at their blue screens while surrounded by tens, even hundreds of other people, many of whom are doing the same thing.

That being said, I know parents who depend on IMing and SMSing their kids to stay in touch, and who seem completely satisfied with both the quality of the communication and the relationship it maintains with their kids.

Posted by: scory at December 30, 2005 3:06 PM

I think every new form of communication ultimately gains its own set of rules of etiquette. Remember when your parents or friends first discovered e-mail, and would forward every joke to you until you were buried in e-mails? Or learning that using all caps in an e-mail meant you were shouting? Or that you shouldn't send porny things to friend's work accounts?

While not everyone has learned to avoid cell phone calls on public transit, I think things are turning around as people get a clue. Soon they'll learn that an incoming text message does not trump an in-person conversation, and that some people (like me) just don't get any meat out of IMs and e-mails.

Posted by: jimbo at December 30, 2005 4:25 PM

I don't think those folks were ever on the same team as the apes. Here's my swing: A bigger better civilization built the walls and left. The wall rats are just washashores. But then again, the great have fallen before- just think of the Sleastaks from Land of the Lost. Poor Enich. Fan-bloody-tastic movie though. Loved every minute of it. Especially the frat boys in front of me screaming like little girls at the worm scene.

Text is fine, but don't expect me to reply- the effort with thumb typing on phone keys outways the benefits.

Posted by: 'monster at December 30, 2005 4:36 PM

Putting etiquette and arguments on the side, I find the real disturbing issue with cell phones and IMing in general is that people have lost the ability to be alone with their own thoughts. We've become a culture where being silent or "unreachable" is often misinterpreted as being rude or out of touch. I do not own or carry a cell phone because I enjoy time with myself or my partner in a state of undisturbable bliss. I do not need nor desire the ability to be in constant communication with anyone or to have messages awaiting me about what I've "missed" out on. People who need to live with the ability to be in constant communication with the rest of humanity are either lonely, insecure, or without the ability to enjoy the silence between their own ears or the soft voice of their own thoughts.

Posted by: pat at December 30, 2005 8:33 PM

In regards to technology and communication (And as someone who has just entered the realm of 30-hood)

I think that most folk born in the later half of the 20th century have lost or not even learned the art of actually sittig down and hand writing a letter to someone. My mother (who is a young woman of 51) sits down and takes the time to write a letter. I get long hand written letters from my Godfather instead of e-mail.
But most of us fallen prey to the Technology Collective and as a result have lost many "old ways" of communication

Posted by: Dax at December 30, 2005 10:24 PM

The best places to IM are (1) when you're on the can and (2) when you're at a boring company meeting. In both cases, multi-tasking reigns supreme and you can feel better about your accomplishments on and off the throne.

Posted by: david at December 31, 2005 11:16 AM

Technology, schmenology. I'd much rather discuss King Kong and would like to add . . .

. . . I think someone needs to write the entire back story for Kong, ala Wicked. It would undoubtedly make a smash Broadway hit when set to music. Let's see, there would be the fall of the isalnd civilization (maybe a tsunami, although that might be a little too fresh for some people . . . . okay, a big typhoon), the demise of Kong's family and parents (ala Bambi), the indtroduction of non-native species/bugs to the island (ala Little Shop of Horrors) and the really ugly dirty island girl we first meet could do her own Fontaine/Eponine number (ala Les Miserables). It'll make a mint with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick doing cameos in the Jack Black and Naomi Watts roles.

Posted by: Boo Augustus at December 31, 2005 12:28 PM

As a youngun (21, who admitedly skipped about the last 10 comments out of impatience, gratification now!) I prefer the most personal medium possible, that allows me to control the social situations I want to be in. If I want a relaxed night at home, I have no problems talking on the phone with people, and don't consider it social interaction. But I do think text messages and written ones are less personal, as they are image controlled and give absolutely no sense of anything about a person's mood, personality, feeling, etc. other than what they wish to radiate or convey. A voice on the other hand can answer millions of questions, but still doesn't compare with live interaction.

All in all, I don't think it's a generational thing, I think it's more of a personality type thing.

Posted by: Kevin at January 1, 2006 11:21 PM