Many aspects of our screen-bound lives are bad for our social skills simply because we get accustomed to controlling the information that comes in, managing our relationships electronically, deleting stuff that doesn't interest us. We edit the world; we select from menus; we pick and choose; our social 'group' focuses on us and disintegrates without us. This makes it rather confusing for us when we step outdoors and discover that other people's behaviour can't be deleted with a simple one-stroke command or dragged to the trash icon.
.. Intelligence nowadays is all about application: it is the ability 'to take in a complex system and learn its rules on the fly'. For young people, this ability is second nature. Any fool knows that, if you need a new and unfamiliar VCR programmed in a hurry, you commandeer any small passing child to do it.
We have a language that is full of ambiguities; we have a way of expressing ourselves that is often complex and elusive, poetic and modulated; all our thoughts can be rendered with absolute clarity if we bother to put the right dots and squiggles between the words in the right places. Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking. If it goes, the degree of intellectual impoverishment we face is unimaginable.
Everyday, you get home from the shops with a bag of cat food and bin-liners and realise that, yet again, you failed to have cosmetic surgery, book a cheap weekend in Paris, change your name to something more glamorous, but the fifth series of The Sopranos, divorce your spouse, sell up and move to Devon, or adopt a child from Guatemala.
.. When a phone call competes for attention with a real-world conversation, it wins. Everyone knows the distinctive high-and-dry feeling of being abandoned for a phone call, and of having to compensate - with quite elaborate behaviours = for the sudden half-disappearance of the person we were just speaking to. 'Go ahead!' we say. 'Don't mind us! Oh look, here's a magazine I can read!' When the call is over, other rituals come into play, to minimise the disruption caused and to restore good feeling.