Who Are We Talking To?
I was at Sunday supper with my family recently where out of two different conversations an interesting and disturbing theme emerged.
The first conversation occurred before supper at the jigsaw puzzle table. My niece was talking about how people don’t seem to know how to talk to one another anymore. Not only are they constantly texting, she said, but when it comes time to interact it’s as if they never learned how. She went on to say her friends are meeting people through online dating services. She’s in her early twenties, and so are her friends but rather than going out and meeting people at the clubs, they are sitting at home meeting them online.
A little later at the supper table, my brother-in-law talked about his last journey by airplane on which shortly after take-off more than half the people around him pulled out their Kindle or Kobo Readers, iPads, or other tablets. People used to talk on airplanes, he said. They don’t anymore.
These two scenarios alarm me. One of my cousins met his wife on a flight. He just started talking to the lady in the next seat – and she talked back to him. I met my husband at a dance club; a wonderful place we went to meet people and to dance. We got the whole impression from our personal intuition back then. We didn’t need to Google someone before we danced with him to read all about his career, education, hobbies and dreams. We asked. We paid attention. We learned as we went along.
It used to be that you could chat with the person in line in front of you at the bank or the grocery store, but too often now that person is talking or texting on his or her cell phone. We’re drawing curtains around us in our physical space, keeping people at a distance even as via our social networks we’re inviting other people near. It may feel like we are connecting more, and in some cases we are – communicating with cousins miles away via Facebook, for instance – but what about the people right in front of us? And when our present conversation can be interrupted at any time, are we ever really, as Buddha said, “where we are” for long?
How do you feel about the changes to our social life with the presence of the cell phone? Do you feel our social skills are disintegrating because we spend so much time communicating with a few characters and so little time talking face to face?
photo credit: Elvert Barnes