Sliding Otter News
February 27, 2010
Volume 2, Issue 5
Everybody's Talking At Me
Everybody’s talking at me.
I don’t hear a word they’re saying.
I don’t notice it so much at home, but recently I traveled to the Caribbean. Quite frequently I saw people plugged into various electronic devices while ignoring or not even noticing people sitting right next to them. Were they looking for information anonymously? Keeping in touch with others by text messages? Making sure they don’t miss anything? Just passing the time? Who knows?
In a recent AARP Magazine article, David Dudly, the editor of Urbanite magazine, decried “a nation of hyper-connected hermits, thumbs furiously working our BlackBerrys, each of us a master of an ever-smaller personal universe.” He goes on to observe that our communication with each other is more focused on accomplishing something than it is on enhancing our relationships with each other.
Dudly also cites Jacqueline Olds’ observation that the central paradox in life today is “simultaneous connection and isolation.” We can be in touch with others no matter where we are in the world but our electronic notes leave out our emotions, gestures and tone of voice. We can reach each other any time we want but in the process become farther away from each other’s “real self”.
Once we talked with each other just for the joy of doing so. Children sat with their grandparents on the front porch learning about the old days. Men waiting in barber shops shared their opinions about the weather, politics or local gossip while women in beauty salons did the same. Friends gathered at each others’ houses for dinner or parties on a regular basis.
I’m not suggesting that we have lost the ability to communicate. Perhaps we just don’t exercise our skills in this area as often as we once did. On my trip, I had quite a few pleasant conversations with people I had never met and will likely never see again. Looking back on these conversations, I found them more superficial than I would have liked. I disappointed myself by not sharing more of me than I did. Not that I had to stay on the surface but it seems the thing to do in this day and age. Pleasant recollections of my conversations remain but I don’t feel like I shared anything of substance with those I met.
I fear that this trend locks us in our own worlds and keeps us from knowing about the lives of those we encounter just once or on a regular basis. I wonder about our relationships. Marriage, parenting, friendship and society as a whole become tainted. They strain with the increasingly clipped and limited snippets of information we share with others, leaving our lives increasingly alone and lonely.
Life Lab Lessons
What do you share with others and how do you do it?
How many people know the real you?
What would your relationships be like if you made them a priority?
Put aside your devices for a few hours and try talking directly to others instead.
Share something personal with someone else and try learning something personal in return.