Bicycling and raising children are back in fashion, and even a spectrum of “mindfulness.” So it’s not all sonics, automatons and the blogosphere. But if I try to strike up a conversation with a stranger on a bench, often he remains silent, looking at a tablet or whatever — not from any rudeness but simply because he assumes my comments are addressed to a cell phone. Thus, loving dogs and cats seems on the rise. You can hug them. Then hands-on affection is the coin of the realm. Yet when Web people who email and text ad infinitum do meet in person, they clasp and air kiss one another much more prevalently than in the past.

People of a certain age may remember the term “kissing cousins,” back when families were extensive and endearments subtly textured. Kisses and hugs at family reunions with relatives you liked the most were as central to living as having 700 Facebook friends “like” your post.

Imagine how the telephone would have transformed Facebook, if Facebook had been invented first. Hosanna! To listen to the human voice’s nuanced innuendos introduce emotion into the conversation. A sonorous voice’s physicality, a slap on the back or a bear hug are rare treats as texting XO’s and pretend kissing the slightest acquaintance met on the sidewalk become ubiquitous.

In the day when handwritten letters personalized our mood and character, distances were sometimes described “as the crow flies.” Scarecrows still stood sentinel in countless fields, not just once a year on a Halloween float. And a man could be described unflatteringly as a toad, a mule, an ox, a cockscomb, a turkey, an old goat, or somebody who chickened out. Chicken Little, the tortoise and the hare and “crying wolf” were memorable metaphors in kindergarten. When footballs were called “pigskins,” a father might warn his son against blowhards by pointing out that on a train “the steam that toots the whistle is not the steam that drives the wheels.” At home, his mother could grouse, “your room looks like a pigsty.” Lonely bachelors circled a dance floor with a “taxi dancer” for a buck or two or patronized a burlesque house where the women on stage wore pasties and a thong, if they weren’t somebody’s beau.

I’m not saying there should not be hookups or instant messaging worldwide. We are globalized. But I am concerned that instant gratification is so thin it flakes off. I care that strangers seldom chat on benches in the park. It will profoundly alter civil life if people prefer cyberspace to face-to-face.

New words like crowd sourcing and Twitter spring up. Meanwhile, handwriting as personality and the human voice enriching the gamut of emotions are vanishing. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, seems to have gone wooden, for example, devoid of both expression and body language when he is on screen. The orifice of our mouth boasts such a range of intimacies, but grinning and puckering, like tears, don’t convert to text.

Nostalgia is not my point. We still hang out bird feeders, but digital electronics should not supplant blood kin, handshakes, kindred elbowing, eye-to-eye persuasion and our voices inflective fluidity. I want gestures, voices, handwriting, smiles and even kisses to remain significant.

Edward Hoagland is the author of over 20 books and hundreds of essays. He lives in Edgartown.