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In a busy restaurant recently, while looking around for a newspaper, I spotted five young women, trendy dressers all (i.e. virtually identical), sitting at a table. In my peripheral vision I noted their heads bent forward. This being Sunday morning with two churches emptying nearby, my inner narrator had them praying over their food. A split-second later an update: there’s no food, they’re looking at menus. Only then did the entire tableau unfold: four of them were texting and the fifth on the phone … and all talking at the same time.

That sight saddened me. Why this frenzied preoccupation with communicating and connecting while walking, bicycling, and sitting with friends? What are people doing on busses, skateboards, and bikes, sucking on to-go cups while repeatedly checking their hand-held devices and tracking each other’s movements on GPS? What are they looking for? What’s their hunger?

On the radio the other day a chirpy personality was talking about electronic gadgets, noting that they help us to “communicate,” which itself is “fun.” In that sense, ‘to communicate’ is like ‘hanging out’ — lacking meaningful purpose. That’s what saddens me.

Everybody’s talking at me.
I don’t hear a word they’re saying,
Only the echoes of my mind.

~From a very old song by Harry Nielsson (1969?)



5 responses »

  1. On the one hand all this technology stops people form actually meeting face to face. On the other hand it’s a great way to meet new people. (I wouldn’t be writing this if I had no pc…)

    It gets irritating when people are constantly doing two things at once. Texting and eating for instance. Do these people really taste whet they are eating?

    I can’t help but use one of those classics:

    “When eating, just eat.”

    On the other side I must confess that I’m constantly carrying around at least a smartphone. But that’s a side-effect of being an IT student. It’s a great feeling though to shut things down every once in a while and go tech-less for a day or two. The first time I did I panicked?! Strange how the body can react some times.

    The hunger however is universal: the hunger for information.
    Combined with the inability to live with oneself, alone… stillness gets blocked out constantly. How many people are out there who can’t sleep without watching tv, can’t read a book (short attention span) or take a walk in the woods and enjoy.

    Back to simplicity

  2. “This frenzied occupation with communicating and connecting…”

    I think that is what the hunger is for, as well as for information, as Christiaan says.
    They are desperately trying to find that sense of connection and community that our culture is so lacking these days.
    A sense of belonging, of being acknowledged, of being someone…. even of simply being! Looking outwards for that confirmation instead of inwards is the easier option. Less frightening, but less satisfying as well…hence the manic need to continue on and on and on… Like an addiction that gets worse and worse the more you feed it.
    The brain (mind) seems to thrive on this kind of activity, and that’s what drives the frenzy. But the soul yearns for the emotional depth and meaning that can only be found through the embodied presence and attention of another. And embodied presence and awareness of ourselves and our world. Sadly, the more the focus is on the former, the less time, energy and opportunity there is for the latter.

    Back to simplicity indeed…I, for one, long for it.

  3. continuation….

    It’s as if people now only believe their experience is valid or acceptable or real if it’s seen through the lens of technology and witnessed by someone else. For example – I was at a music festival last year – the most amazing band was playing powerful, moving music. Right there, right then, live, in your face, atmospheric, creative, energy-filled music….and a huge percentage of the (mostly young) audience were holding up their mobiles, recording, or taking photos of themselves watching it, or talking to, or texting or sending it to someone else!! They simply weren’t present to what was happening in the moment. Like you Peter, that saddened me. One step removed from real life.

    • It has been a long time since I went to a band live. But whenever I hear good music I can’t help to just move to the music.

      Right now as I’m trying to type this it’s hard to sit still, I’m always listening to music. Although not always when listening, just listen I must confess.

      At times it almost seems as if the digital world is becoming the “real” world and the real world isn’t good enough any more.

      • Now there’s an elastic concept: reality. Whenever I find myself making either-or distinctions, I try to look for the ‘middle way.’ Not so much a compromise than a way to accommodate both (and other) aspects in my awareness. May you be happy!


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