Remember back when you would walk down the street passed someone, or come across someone on a wooden path or sit on the bus across from someone…and they weren’t listening to their iPod or talking on their phone with some kind of headset thing? Seems like a dream to me now.
In the interest of full-disclosure, I will admit that we do own iPods, though we came upon the trend a bit late. And I don’t knock the technology in and of itself. It’s brilliant when it comes to passing time in an airport or catching up on NPR programs during my commute or getting some motivational beats during a run. I love how much music and information can be stored so concisely in one place, because I also remember how awkward it was to have my disc-man in a fanny-pack when I worked out.
One of the side effects of all the technological advances that keep entertainment at our fingertips is an increasingly dramatic disconnect from other humans. This has both benefits and advantages, but who I really worry about are the people who don’t remember when you couldn’t carry your music or your phone with you. As I walked the dogs through the gorgeous wooded path behind our house yesterday I passed a little boy. I’m terrible guessing ages so let’s just say he was…up to my shoulder. And he was walking towards us, texting. Still walking, still texting. Or maybe playing tetris. He came upon us, still working those opposable thumbs like a mad man, never looking up. And then shoulder-height boy was gone.
What struck me about this was his complete and utter obliviousness to our presence and his own surroundings. When I was shoulder-height age I would have been completely absorbed by the sight of two cute dogs. I would have at least smiled, possibly greeted a small, non-threatening stranger on a path. I would have had a pocketful of sticks or leaves or stones or snow that I had collected along my way, in fact Dave still heavy sighs on our walks as I collect nature’s debris and then put in on our mantel to display.
I don’t mean to sound all ‘back in my day, things were different’, but back in my day, they were. I can’t say that they were better or worse, but different. I wasn’t always talking to someone on my phone instead of learning the joy of being alone, always plugged in instead of listening to the world around me, and I had to WAIT to see pictures until they were developed on film. Imagine all the embarrassing photos that kids in this digital age are vetoing!
In reality, I don’t have much influence with the shoulder-height set. Eventually, I might have my own crew of shoulder-height tech-addicts, and then I’ll try to show them the virtue of unplugging sometimes, if I’m even able to do it by then. We’ll go for walks without music or phones, we will definitely eat our meals without any hand-held digital companions, and I’ll continue to go for the occasional run where the only beats I hear are my own footfalls. I might even take pictures of them on a camera that uses FILM just as a means of torture.
Then they’ll have to help me program the futuristic DVD player. It’s a fight I can’t win against the shoulder-height types.