dead by midnight. Extend them all the care, kindness and understanding you can
muster. Your life will never be the same again."
Have you ever noticed that people don’t seem very friendly anymore? We seem so consumed by our To Do Lists that we don’t take time to look around us. I noticed it last week while I was grocery shopping. People were pushing their carts, searching the shelves for bargains, glancing at their coupons, reading labels, and ignoring each other. It’s amazing how we can be so close in proximity and yet be so far away.
I’m worried about society and where it’s headed. People seem so involved with themselves. When I was growing up, people interacted with each other. I remember when everyone on our street didn’t have a TV, let alone 3 or 4, so we spent time outside getting to know each other. Kids played games... together...Tag, baseball, Red Rover, Simon Says, Monopoly, Chinese Checkers – games that required us to interact.
On our street, we knew our neighbors by name, and not just the ones who lived on either side. We knew the people down the street and across the alley. We knew Alex, the man who owned the corner store. He actually delivered groceries to the house. We knew our doctor, and he knew us. He made house calls, believe it or not. Society seemed more social.
But times have changed. We keep ourselves busier than ever – especially since technology started zooming ahead at breakneck speeds. Instead of going to the bank, we go to the ATM. Punch in the right codes and out come crisp green spendable bills. No need for a teller. Need to research something? No need to go to the library and talk to the librarian. We log on to the internet. Our favorite search engine is only too happy to sift through mountains of data to find all the information we need and more. Just the user and the computer working together.
Our society is more transient today. We know our neighbors enough to say Hi, but it’s more difficult to really get to know our neighbors because people don’t stay in one place. Companies transfer employees at the drop of a hat. Today you live in Michigan; tomorrow you’re transferred to New York or Georgia.
We isolate ourselves with headphones. Whether walking the dog, roller blading or doing yard work, we drown out the rest of the world with our headphones. Maybe they give us an excuse to ignore the people around us.
When I was younger, people didn’t drive to work. We rode the bus. The same people rode the bus downtown every morning and back home in the evening. We talked to each other on the bus, got to know a little about each other and about our families. We watched out for each other. When someone wasn’t on the bus, we wondered if they were ill or on vacation.
Now, we take our own car to work. Look around you. Each car contains a driver and only occasionally a passenger. Even when there is a passenger, it doesn’t seem like there is much interaction going on. Each person seems to be in their own separate world, oblivious to their surroundings. The commute to work has become a solitary pursuit.
I remember when all gas was pumped by your friendly gas station attendant. He chatted with you and cleaned your windows while gas was flowing into the tank. Now we have self-serve stations. You pump your own gas, but at least you get to exchange pleasantries with the attendant when you pay for your gas, and the 20 ounce Pepsi and chips you also purchased. Even that has changed. Now we Pay at the Pump. You can pump your gas and pay for it and never interact with another human being.
Remember when you made a telephone call and actually got to speak to a live human being? Voice mail has streamlined that. Now you press 1 if you want your current balance, press 2 if you want your last 5 transactions, press 3 if you know the extension you want to reach. Sometimes you are invited to press 0 to speak to a customer representative. Upon pressing 0, you most likely hear “all of our customer representatives are currently on other lines. Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line and a representative will be with you shortly.”
I’m concerned that we are losing our social skills. I’m more concerned that the younger generation will never learn social skills. They can be sitting across from each other texting...each other! I am amazed at how we have let technology substitute for being social. People are social beings. We need interaction. We need to feel that we are valued, that we are cared for and loved. Yet it seems that society is surely moving in a different direction. We choose to isolate ourselves from each other and I wonder how we, as a society, will survive that.
For one week make it a point to connect with at least 5 people each day. Preferably, these will be
people you do not know.
- When you're at the store, make eye contact and smile or nod...maybe even say "Hello".
- When you go out to get the mail and you see one of your neighbors, be sure and wave or make small talk.
- Wherever you may find other people, single out at least one of them to connect with.
At the end of the week, take stock of your experience. Was sit painful to make human contact?
Did others ignore you or find you annoying? My guess is that you will find unplugging from
technology and plugging into "humanology" to be a most enjoyable experience.