Thursday, April 22, 2010

Donne would be mortified

Want to try an interesting experiment sometime? Walk down the street or walk down the corridor in a public building and try to engage people with just a look, a smile or a simple hello. See how many will immediately look away or won’t even look at you in the first place. My theory is that they’re scared to engage you. It’s true for both men and women and the younger they are, the less likely they will even look at you. I don’t mean teenagers, I mean people in their 20s and 30s. It seems to be getting worse. There are times when I will deliberately speak in a louder voice and say hello to someone and it’s as if they don’t know how to respond. There’s almost a look of panic when you intrude into their space … and God forbid if they have their iPod running or something. That is a clear sign they are in their own universe and visitors are not welcome. I wonder how many remember the line in John Donne’s Meditation XVII, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” I would guess most have never heard of it or at least have no idea about what it means. Is there a better reason as to why there is so much violence in the world when we are so detached from one another? If we do not value the people around us, why should we value their existence or their well-being? Donne would be mortified.


Wisewebwoman said...

Fear has a lot to do with it, IMO, VP.
Fear even of engagement with others, the sheer unpredicability. If I'm listening to the same old stuff on my IPOD day after day then I don't like surprises, do I?
I also think the death of everyday social interconnection replaced by solitary passive TV watching is one of the main contributors.

ViewPoint2010 said...

Agreed 100%. As a matter of fact, I used “fear” as one of the labels for the piece. I guess it’s one of the results of urbanization … moving into those little boxes made of ticky-tacky and never seeing one another. Apartment dwellers who have no idea who lives next door. It’s also why a young woman, being raped in a large city, can scream for help and no one responds. We have become so insular and so isolated. I remember when the first wave of portable personal listening devices arrived … probably cassettes … and people started plugging in their headphones and zoning out. I never could handle that because of my need to be in touch with my environment, including the people around me. Eventually, we might all be living in those little box hotels they have in Japan and closing the curtain on the world.

Lisa said...

I recently had a conversation with someone re technology's impact on the younger generation. They sit next to their friends and text rather than talk. Not sure if they know how to look someone in the eye!


ViewPoint2010 said...

Lisa, I remember a friend telling me a few years ago about his 14-year old son. He was on the computer one night for several hours, so Ben asked him what he was doing. He said he was talking to a friend. Ben asked which friend. Turns out it was the kid next door! His son couldn’t see the value in going next door to talk in person; he preferred to do it online. Neither of us could understand how that could happen. But now you see all these people on the street with cell phones glued to their ears (almost literally in the case of the Blueray things or whatever they call them). My question is … WHAT are they talking about? Same with the texting stuff. I think a large part of it is self-image … if I can be seen talking on a cell phone, that somehow makes me part of the in-crowd. But you’re right, inter-personal communication skills are suffering. Hopefully someone in the education department has recognized this and will discuss it as part of curriculum renewal – as long as they don’t send a text message to start the discussion. :-) Thanks for visiting this little project. I enjoy your blog.