I recently took the train home from San Diego this last weekend. As I sat down on the train I immediately plugged in- headphones on, sunglasses over my eyes, and face buried in the book I was reading. I was thinking to myself, “Wow, I must be so approachable right now, reading a book!”
Seriously? That thought actually crossed my mind? I thought that reading a book showed that I wasn’t as phone obsessed as everyone else on the train?
I can only imagine that trains back in the early 1900’s weren’t so quiet. People had these weird things we refer to as “conversations” with each other and probably discussed the amazing literature that was available to them at the time, assuming they had been educated.
The train home from San Diego was silent. People only spoke in short phrases like “Excuse me” or “Right behind you”. I nearly had a heart attack when a guy approached my row after a stop and asked, “Can I sit here?”
There we sat, in uncomfortable silence, for seven stops. As we were sitting in the tiny train seats I became aware that we both were sitting with headphones plugged in, sunglasses on, and I had my book.
It struck me as strange, that here we are in 2015 with insane amounts of “social” media, and I sat in silence with another human being next to me. Plugged into our own worlds, neither of us felt the need to strike up a conversation with one another. Why should I feel the need to talk to the person sitting next to me when I’m busy having five, six other conversations through my phone with people I can’t see face to face?
It’s true when it’s said that the generations are quickly forgetting how to communicate with one another. As I sat on this train, I decided to take my headphones out and look out the window instead of into my book. The guy next to me still made no change and did not once try to speak with me at all. But in all fairness, neither did I. I recognized his headphones as his line of defense from all conversations with strangers- a way for him to tell the outside world, “I’m busy with my social media world.”
When the guy in the row in front of me asked if a seat was empty, he smiled at the woman who answer and asked, “Great! How’s it going?”
Stunned, the woman took an awkward beat to reply by simply saying, “Fine.” They spent the rest of the train ride in complete silence.
As we become more social in our online worlds, chatting with people we’ve never met thinking that we know everything about them, we’re forgetting that we are surrounded by people every day. I’ve had friends who have said that they feel lonely out in the world, or unprotected when they don’t have headphones in.
You’re seen as strange, not outgoing, when you try to strike up conversations with strangers. It’s not a normal cultural standard anymore, because people are too wrapped up in their own social media worlds to care about anything else going on around them.
I sat on a train with strangers, all traveling to different places with different stories, and I didn’t even manage to get the name of the guy who sat down next to me for half the ride. No one is “social” anymore by any means of the word. We’re all at our peak of anti-socialness.
In fact, if you even want to meet people these days to date, you don’t even have to leave the house anymore. Honestly, you never have to leave your house anymore. You can work remotely, chat with people online, meet people through online dating websites, and view travel pictures all from your couch. No need to socialized with people in person.
It’s innate. As humans, we’re supposed to converse with other people face-to-face. Silly to deny ourselves otherwise, we have created an entire world where we don’t exist in real time anymore and neither do the people around us. We can sit next to strangers on trains or our own friends on the couch, and never speak one word to them- instead happily absorbed into our phones.
Do people even know how to hold real conversations anymore? Sometimes I’m not even sure I can hold a real, stimulating conversation anymore; in part because I worry that if I have a thought that goes on for too long-
Oh what’s the point, I’ve already lost their attention because I don’t glow and they can’t click me like their phones.
The more anti-social we appear, the less and less likely others will consider approaching us. We could be missing out on some of the greatest relationships and we’ll never know, thinking that all we need in life we’re holding in the palms of our hands.
Putting down our phones makes us vulnerable, because we’re sitting in a world where everyone else looks and judges us through a lens. Through this lens, we don’t appear skinny enough, attractive enough, funny enough, or worthy enough for others time if we simply try to exist in the real world. It’s frightening to think how many friendships would end if people deleted their social media accounts. Because well, god forbid you would have to call them to ask about your friend’s day, or even worse, see them in person.
Truly a shame that the more social our media becomes, the less social we are.
Check out this video that went viral not long ago that really makes you reconsider having your phone glued to your face: