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Then a mother I know weighed in with a few thoughts that only strengthen my argument.
"I rarely call anyone who lives in town," she wrote me. "However, since I wasn't one for doing a lot of telephoning anyway, I now have much more contact on a regular basis with friends in town because of e-mailing and texting. I also have much more contact with family and out-of-town friends because of e-mail. So social media has increased my correspondence while decreasing direct communication."
This much I'd said myself. But she went on.
"I love texting," she wrote. "My kids answer me back almost immediately. And they have no attitude in texting. They're friendly, have a sense of humor, seem to respect me. It all changes on the phone." She added, "Oh, I'm so much better writing than talking. Not because I'm nicer but I just express myself more clearly. I often write letters to my kids in place of those 'long talks.' I can say what I want to say more easily and without interruption and they'll read it alone and not feel the need to be dismissive. Who knows if it's better but I get the satisfaction of knowing I said what I meant to say."
Anything that encourages a few well-chosen words over a harangue is good for us and good for civilization. The smartphone might be the most civilizing device to come our way since the automobile. Say what you will about road rage, the car has subdued the unruly beast in more of us than the Bible. The most doctrinaire anarchist drives on the right side of the road and stops at red lights.
The NRA would say firearms play the same useful role, but I think the jury is out on that one.