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.