Back in November, writer-producer-director Bill Persky lamented in a USA TODAY column that for his 78th birthday he hadn’t received the pajamas he wanted. Instead, he “was deluged with an arsenal of high-tech.” Persky’s witty and telling Column: We’re killing communication is worth revisiting.
I was reminded of Persky’s funny essay when for the umpteenth time yet another lout was yakking on his smartphone while relieving himself in the public restroom as I took care of my own business. Or maybe the boor was texting with his free hand? While it’s not the death of civilization, it’s an oft-repeated instance of Persky’s complaint, our unfathomable need to be in constant contact all the time regardless of where we are and what we are doing.
As Persky opined, all the communication breakthroughs from iPhones to Kindles to Twitter “are no longer improving communication but actually destroying it.”
It’s become a bane not a boon to be in constant, mostly meaningless high-tech chatter via intercommunication tools like Facebook, MySpace and the other social networking suspects.
The end of common sense.
Moreover, as people rely more and more on digital-this and computerized-that, not only is actual communication lost but so is common sense. When, for example, did common sense get lost along with its erstwhile companion personal responsibility? When did we subsume level-headedness and judgment for dumb and blind reliance on technology?
No better recent example exists than the Google Maps Lawsuit brought by a Woman hit by car in Utah. The woman says Google was negligent because Google’s walking map, which she downloaded to her smartphone, was unsafe. Seems the walking map took her to a dark, busy thoroughfare and like a horse-with-blinders she kept on walking without looking or thinking. The Complaint reminds me of the joke that 99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
Multitasking and intrusions.
But beyond our descension into more and more meaningless contact, technology has also wedded itself to the Me Generation and its successors to such an extent that it now allows us to think social networks are the means to build on the relationships with those 100 of my closest friends.
The last Facebook controversy was about a year ago and over content ownership. See Facebook faces furor over content rights – CNN.com.
Coming to the nuisance and then complaining about it.
While the defense of ‘coming to the nuisance‘ is no longer an absolute bar in nuisance cases, it’s no stretch to analogize to the doctrine in assessing what passes for a privacy complainant’s reasonableness in the context of grousing about a social network’s privacy intrusions.
In a nuisance claim, recovery may be limited when the complainant knew of the situation or in the exercise of ordinary care should have known of the situation and then voluntarily placed herself in the proximity of an activity now alleged to be a nuisance.
Modernly, the old doctrine says that your having ‘come to the nuisance‘ will be but one factor in evaluating the reasonableness of the harm you later have the chutzpah to complain about. (Second Restatement of Torts at § 840D).
In other words, don’t move next door to an airport or a feedlot and then complain about the nuisances of noise or smell. And don’t post your complete life-story, including all your likes, dislikes, friends, siblings, children, pets, family photos and hobbies online and then get mad when it gets widely disseminated to third parties.
As Facebook nears 500 million worldwide users, it’s well past the time to close the barn door on privacy loss. See Facebook Marketing Statistics, Demographics, Reports, and News.
Fact is, we’re not killing communication. It’s common sense that’s dead.
Photo Credits: “poo activity,” by Lee Brimelow at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution; “texting,” by iamtheo at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution;”Cattle in a Corral,” by Chris Hartman at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution.