MAY 4, 2019


Losing Our Edge

By Wilma Gonzales Buenaobra

Fascinating and alarming it is to be in the midst of this Information Age. Prior to its full-scale launch, it declared to deliver: a. reduced stress, b. more leisure time, c. a more efficient way of doing things, d. more family time and, d. people will have more time to pursue hobbies. Au contraire!

We were simply catapulted into doing things differently. There obviously have been benefits, such as being able to reach anyone, anywhere. Relieved to be able to call 911 without delay in dire situations wherever one may be. But, as we humans also have a natural proclivity to pushing the envelope, so to speak - the coin soon revealed its flipside - the convenience has brought its downside. Road accidents have increased due to talking and/or texting while driving. Many students have been run over due to their cavalier attitude of crossing the street while talking or texting; completely oblivious of traffic and ignoring running cars. Safety now seems to be the drivers’ sole responsibility! You look because I won’t! Yep, too busy here with my cellphone!

Several years back, while stopped at an intersection, waiting for the traffic light to turn green, we were rear-ended by a 21-year old who clearly, was texting. I might add that the increase in his car insurance costs thereafter would have taught him a good lesson, or not! Who knows!

The simple household telephone, erstwhile a necessity, has now been downgraded to a nondescript landline, eyed suspiciously as an antiquated device, albeit only found useful by seniors.

The ubiquitous and sometimes innocuous appendage of the next generation of homo sapiens, is the cellphone - the most important item in every teenager’s life. One that dominates the scene, believe it or not, worldwide! Even Russia, but especially China, Singapore, India, the Philippines, and of course, the USA!

Passengers in all modes of transport, planes, trains, cars, see all humans hunched, heads are bowed, not in reverence to the Almighty but simply bent, intent on what seem to be so very important businesses on their cellphones. People these days do not even have time to greet anyone. No one smiles, by the way. God forbid, one takes their eyes off their cellphones to look at someone in the eye with the threat of an exchange of pleasantries! It seems that our ocular assets were simply made to be glued on the cellphone, lest something escapes! Teen dates have invariably become two young people sitting at a table, in a restaurant, texting! Everything now relegated to the cellphone: music, camera, ad infinitum, including breaking up!

Quite an interesting phenomenon; that in this Information Age, we have unwittingly stunted our growth, our capacity and ability to express ourselves. Misunderstandings and misconceptions abound, thus broken relationships have arisen. What to say of the rising teen depression brought about by sharing too much information! We expose ourselves at the most vulnerable moment of our tender years. Thus, we open ourselves to be judged! Most often than not, rudely and cruelly – which we unfortunately, are not equipped to handle! Ergo teen depression is on the rise that leads to suicide. If you can’t handle the heat, why did you expose yourself to the fire?

No longer do we speak much, or enjoy a healthy and leisurely exchange of ideas. We seldom carry conversations, discuss, rehash, and rethink matters through without getting “worked up.” Mostly reacting, albeit, emotionally, rather than responding rationally.

In the face of e-mail, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on, we have developed an attitude “I have no time for this!” “Speak quickly and get to the point!” Yet we spend entire sleepless nights, copious and alarming number of hours in front of whatever device we have in our hand! It is an alarming and worrisome addiction! So much so, that in China, well-heeled parents send their device-addicted youngsters to a device rehab to wean them from cellphone dependency! Try to get them back on track with dealing with their studies and face the real world - not the cyber world!

Truly, technological advancement in cyber communication, has jettisoned us to a new age. But along with its undeniable convenience comes insidious effects. Abbreviated words via text messages and the social media, have clearly corrupted, and destroyed proper spelling and correct grammar! Truly, it has also diminished our ability to communicate effectively, with substance, clarity, and purpose. Often there is a sad disconnect between what we say, what we mean, and what we actually have in mind! Indeed, in the face of all these technological advancement, we have seriously compromised our edge, our ability to communicate skillfully and effectively express our ideas.

Only in the human specie can you find a speaker who has the power to percolate anger, inspire ideas, give hope, make you cry, and create sheer laughter. A beautiful song and a well-written poem, allows us to get in touch with our higher mind, our finer sensibilities. It can be a source of inspiration, and can even heal a broken spirit. Communication skills coupled with diplomacy is worth cultivating. But how do we now develop these skills? We don’t think much, nor do we talk much! The ability to navigate around different Apps, computer games, and texting is all our youngsters know to do.

In the face of our technological advancement, healthy, skillful, and excellent verbal and written communication, is now lost in our younger generations. Aspiring to excel in them is nonexistent. Just read the abysmal product of our self-proclaimed “journalists” wannabe “writers.” Clearly, we are fast losing our edge!

Thus, original movie of Planet of the Apes, starred by Charlton Heston, wherein homo sapiens grunt, groan, and growl while the anthropoids, eloquently and brilliantly express themselves – may not be far from becoming the future reality! Wilma Gonzales Buenaobra is a retiree from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a former professor of Tagalog at George Washington University.


WILMA GONZALES BUENAOBRA, is a retiree from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a former professor of Tagalog at George Washington University.

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