July 30, 2014 | 10:27 AM A car salesman the other day told me that in five years cars will no longer be built with CD players because we'll be getting all our music and audio books through our smartphones.
It's hard to exaggerate how digital media has taken over our lives. Michael Wolff, writer and media critic, claims that adults now spend 11 hours a day on digital media and 23 hours a week texting. He writes: "We are only at the dawn of the age of immersive and total connectivity, living in a world that is once-removed. It is surely one of those historic moments, as from the farm to the city, from hand-tooled to industrial production, from horse to auto, now from reality to para-reality."
Fourteen years ago, in his groundbreaking book "Bowling Alone," Robert Putnam showed how disconnected from family, friends and neighbors we were becoming. Drawing on half a million interviews, he showed how we were signing fewer petitions, belonging to fewer organizations that meet and knowing neighbors less. More people were bowling but not bowling in leagues; they were going bowling alone.
In "Affluenza," the authors point out that in the 1950s families sat with neighbors laughing at Red Skelton. As late as the 1980s, we still watched "Family Ties" as a family. But somewhere in the mid-1990s, each family member watched his or her own TV; isolation and passivity had become the new lifestyle.
A Randy Glasbergen cartoon features a man sitting at his computer, his wife looking on. He writes: "Dear Andy. It's your father again. How have you been? Your mother and I are fine. We miss you. Please sign off your computer and come downstairs for something to eat. Love, Dad."
Are we evolving or devolving? Are we happier now? Are we a better people? Dr. Wayne Willis