Erica Scott: Life, Love and Spanking

Ruminations, opinionated observations, darkly humorous blathering and the occasional rant from an outspoken spanko and unapologetic attention wh–, um, hog.

Blah blah clever title blah

Pondering life in the middle of Hump Day. Because why not.

I’m old enough to remember a time when if you wanted to communicate to someone immediately, you had two choices: see them in person, or call them on the phone. And if you called them, you took your chances that they weren’t home and wouldn’t answer. There was no voicemail. Or they were already on the phone and you got a busy signal. If you had an emergency and had to get through, you dialed the operator and had them break in on the call. People weren’t all that accessible. But somehow, they got things done. They made plans. They did communicate.

Now, people are basically accessible 24/7. Many of us have a phone on our person or at our fingertips at all hours. But we don’t have to make phone calls anymore if we don’t want to. There is texting. There is email. There is online messaging. There is Skype. You can communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

So why do people communicate less now? How did we get so damn busy, so distracted, that we have the attention spans of gnats? Do we have too much stimulation? Is there simply too much to do and too little time in which to do it? Or do we just not care all that much anymore?

I can understand that in other times, people didn’t have the time to devote a large chunk of it to a visit, or to a long phone conversation. But now, it takes, literally, a matter of seconds to let someone know you’re thinking about them. You can fire off a text. You can drop an email.

John and I talk about this. His standard explanation is, “People are busy. And they’re afraid that if they engage, they’ll get caught up and obligated to keep responding.” Yeah, god forbid we should have to respond to others; what a burden. Okay, so people are too busy to answer a text? How come they’re not too busy to binge-watch hours and hours of streaming TV? Or play games online? Or engage in social media until their eyes bug out?

Last weekend, John and I went out to a nice dinner to celebrate our anniversary. There was a family of three at the table next to ours — a dad, a mom, and a teenage boy. While they sat and waited for their food, all three of them stared down at their phones in front of them. They didn’t say a word to each other. The phones weren’t put aside until they got their dinner, and after they were through, the phones were picked up again. Why bother going out together??

In the past couple of days, I’ve gotten a text that reads: “Sorry, I can’t talk to you right now.” I have no idea who the sender is. I don’t know the number. Not only is this person too busy to talk, they’re apparently too busy to even bother to check if they’re texting the right number.

People have the time to travel everywhere to convene with friends. But they don’t have time to spend with local ones.

So what you have is billions of people, with every possible way to connect… and who feel more alone and isolated than ever.

We all want to feel special. We all want to matter. And yes, we all crave attention and validation; some people more than others. So what do we do? Some of us become performers. We provide entertainment until people get bored with us and move on to the latest and greatest performer. Some of us go on really crappy reality shows and make complete asses of ourselves, but hey, at least people are noticing us. That is, until the next hot mess supersedes us. Some people make a whole lot of noise on social media, gathering followers and constantly posting/tweeting to keep their name on feeds. Until they stop… and no one notices. And in extreme cases, some others, feeling disenfranchised and forgotten, get guns and go on shooting rampages with them.

Some strive to stay connected, throwing out those texts and emails like little digital life preservers. Until they start to feel that maybe they’re being a bother and pest, and eventually, they stop. And then it’s metaphorical crickets. “Hey, where have you been? Are you okay? I’m just thinking about you,” seem to be lost phrases. Because we’re just too damn busy and distracted to notice or care that someone’s gone missing.

There is one sure-fire way to get noticed, to be appreciated, to have people say kind things about you.

You can die.

But that kinda sucks. Because you’re, well, dead. And you’re not around to hear the kind things. You don’t get to realize that you mattered after all.

Anyway… that’s about it. Please don’t let me interrupt you. I know you’re busy. Back to work with me.

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18 thoughts on “Blah blah clever title blah

  1. (sigh) This post reminds me of some lines from the song “If I Die Young.”

    “A penny for my thoughts, oh no I’ll sell them for a dollar / They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner / And maybe then you’ll hear the words I been singin’ / Funny when you’re dead how people start listenin’ “

    I don’t have any good answers. I know I got…distracted…from people who were/are important to me and even lost a big part of myself for about four years. For that, I am truly sorry to those who thought I had forgotten them. I may have been drowning myself, but I didn’t just forget. It is definitely a struggle, but I am slowly finding my way back.

    I know life can get busy, but even I don’t understand why people don’t reply. It is totally acceptable to just let me now you’re busy and will get back with me or email later. I know it’s silly but even I get really anxious when I send the first text of the day. I don’t know…maybe our personality type really is rare, so it really doesn’t bother anyone else. 😕

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I decided, no matter how busy I was, to tell you I enjoyed your post. It sure did hit home with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jay — you are one of the most responsive people I know, and even you are allowed to have a life. The paradox of this is that the more I know in my gut that someone is out there caring, the less I need to be reassured of it, if that makes any sense at all.

    Rae — thank you. See how little time that took? ♥

    Liked by 2 people

  4. My wife and kids do that with their phones when we go out together for dinner. I take away their phones. Oddly, in just moments the dead look leaves their eyes, and they start to function again. They do know how. They can do it. They will. It just takes one person to object to the mesmerizing. Yet, how often is there not even one person who does?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Erica, I hear what you’re saying. It’s something I’ve thought about often. Even though I’m the kind of person who really craves communication and connection (despite being an introvert) I find myself having to overcome my own resistance when it comes to reaching out. I respond pretty consistently, but I don’t make the effort to reach out nearly enough.

    If others are like me I tend to think it has to do with a circular cycle of fear of vulnerability, leading to procrastination, leading to guilt feelings, and further procrastination. In order to break that cycle, I must choose to be vulnerable to the possibility that I will be judged for waiting so long to communicate or check in. Fortunately, it’s begun to sink in that there is no cure for it but to lean in to that vulnerability, with eyes open to the potential pain and heart open to the connection that happens more often than not when I do.

    Also, a number of us have a wise and caring internet friend called Erica, who will issue an uncompromising challenge to our status quo once and a while. Those require the thoughtful and sensitive reader to think it through and make a decision about whether we’re up for the challenge.

    Thank you for being there and for giving a damn even when it’s hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Quai — you are a kind soul. Your comments always lift my spirits; thank you.
      The vulnerability thing is a double-edge sword, certainly. Opening up and admitting our need for connection can bring some wonderful rewards. But it can also open a person up to a world of hurt if their overtures are rejected. The challenge is in not taking it personally — because like I mentioned, a lot of the time it’s because people are just too damn busy and distracted.

      Like

  6. I think a big part of the reason people always seem so busy and distracted is, as you write, we are connected 24/7. We’re constantly getting streams of texts, calls, notifications, updates, news, tweets, Skype alerts. I know a few friends who, if they put their phone down, it keeps singing its constant stream of dings and beeps for hours, almost non-stop. It’s no wonder they always seem so busy and stressed. They’re constantly having their attention redirected 24/7.

    People find it weird that I’ll go for a walk and not answer text messages. Or that I usually won’t respond to non-emergency messages during work hours. But it means that I’m getting things done during my day. And it means I do have time to reach out to friends and family – though many of them never seem to have time to respond.

    Lately I’ve had a few people complain to me that they feel isolated and besieged at the same time – always on the go, always responding to people, always reacting and never getting things done. I tell them to unplug. Put away the phone, don’t check e-mail, sign out of Facebook. Just for a few hours or a day. It’ll free up hours a day and make them feel so much more relaxed. But they don’t, they just keep responding every minute to the dings and chimes of their phones. Some days it feels like a Black Mirror episode.

    I guess that explains why people don’t reach out to their friends who go silent. They don’t have time to notice with the torrent of notifications and distractions.

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    • Ben — that makes a lot of sense. It’s kind of sad, though. So connected, and no time to maintain connections because there’s so damn many things we’re connected to.
      I keep my phone on silent so I don’t have to hear the dings. And I turn it off when I go to bed. I’ve never been an always accessible sort of person, and I’m not going to start now.

      Like

      • I was always on-line for a while. I worked in an office back when Blackberry phones were the big thing. And we were sometimes on call and always responding to some apparent crisis. I burned out after about a year or so.

        Now I try to regulate my connectedness, especially when it comes to my phone. People (or at least I) need breaks. Otherwise it’s really stressful and overly stimulating. I don’t like what my phone does to me and it, oddly enough, makes communicating with people harder since they’re flooded with demands for their attention.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Absolutely agree: despite all the technology, and the numerous ways to connect, we communicate less with other people these days.

    Even on a face-to-face level, there is less communication; people go about their daily business substantially inside their own bubbles.

    I believe that we are substantially more insular in our thinking and behaviour today when compared to 50 years ago.

    Like

    • B — for loners like me, the added ways of communicating are both a blessing and a curse. I can connect with people all over the world and never leave my house. Problem is, then I don’t leave my house. The more I can connect, the more I can isolate.

      Like

  8. Love your thoughts here. I’ve been thinking for the past day about all that you have said. 1) Yes, people are overstimulated by all the instant access to dang near everything. 2) They have too many “friends” who aren’t really friends. No one can possibly keep up with 300 fb friends, 1,000 twitter followers, etc. They’re so busy trying to make new contacts to get approval/dopamine spike, that they cannot take the time that they used to to call a friend or go visit one. 3) I don’t want to receive a quick text or whatever that says, “Hope you’re doing okay over there” from someone who hasn’t talked to me in some meaningful manner in the past 3 months or longer. 4) I want the deeper connection with fewer people because then I can truly nurture those relationships. With them, I will text, call, email, and even visit if geography permits. Anyway, just sharing a few of my thoughts …….. Hugs, Windy

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  9. Please know, dear friend, that I am thinking of you and wishing you well.

    Regardless of the medium, you are a treasure!

    Hugs,
    Bonnie

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Windy — thank you! You know, I really don’t mind the quick texts. Sometimes I prefer them. To me, that shows someone is thinking about me, even though they don’t have the time to talk. That’s really all I need. It’s the complete silence and disappearing that I can’t handle… especially nowadays when it’s so easy to take a few seconds and tap out “Hi, thinking of you.” Just that makes a world of difference to me!

    Bonnie — you’re the best. Thank you. ♥

    Like

  11. People are incredulous that I do not have, nor have ever had, a cell phone. I always tell them that I do, however, have indoor plumbing. The on-line stuff I do is at the PC on my desk in my apartment. I think I would feel stifled, claustrophobic, and otherwise ill at ease to be so “connected.”

    I work on the college campus here in town, and do see a lot of faces fixed on phones. But, here’s the good news, I also see young types actually meet, greet, hug, and talk face-to-face. Come to think of it, both those groups are often the same people.

    The last time all my brother’s offspring and their spouses were all in town, he and his wife collected all the phones, including their own, into a basket for the duration of the day. It seemed to make a difference, but these people are generally balanced in regard to in-person and electronic interaction, anyway.

    Generally. When this same brother’s employers required him to trade his flip-phone for a “smart phone” a few years back, I actually caught this otherwise responsibly adult person trying to drive and text, ironically, the very thing his youngest daughter had done some time ago, driving her car into a pole– fortunately, without any serious injuries!- and for which he gave her hell. As far as I know, he’s not doing that now.

    So it’s a very mixed bag. As you wrote, it’s wonderful to find dear people you never would have met before, but the whole thing can also become a drain.

    When the Web was new, there were all sorts of interactive groups, which gave way to things like MySpace and blogs, which gave way to ever-expanding social media. I’m glad for most of it, I never heard so often from my son before, but there also seems like there’s way too much to even try to take in. It is easy to lose people or get lost.

    I see from the previous thoughtful remarks here that everyone is aware of the problem, and doing things to counter it. That’s always a good sign.

    Perhaps “balance” is the key, especially in this time of ridiculous extremes.

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  12. Dave — thank you for this. I can’t imagine not having a cell phone, I admit it, which is ridiculous, since I made it through the first two-thirds or so of my life without one. But then again, I can’t imagine life without computers now either. We adapt to new technology and then it becomes “necessary.”

    I do think phone use of any kind in a car is dangerous. I don’t have Bluetooth or any of the wireless stuff and when I’m driving, I don’t do anything with the phone except maybe check the GPS (which I barely know how to use!).

    Like

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