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?)