It seems to me that too many people today are so busy over-exercising their thumbs and using their gadgets that they've forgotten how to converse.
No "Please", no "Thank you", no "Excuse me". It's more like, "I'm too busy in my own world of I-pod, or earphones, or hand-held games to notice there are other people around me. Or to notice that I've bumped into someone, or that my music is so loud that it disturbs others." Very selfish, people.
And, ultimately, very sad. We seem to have lost the ability to CONNECT with others, unless it's by long-distance and impersonal texting. How can someone really know what you are thinking and feeling through an e-mail or text? And yes, I suppose you can use those stupid emoticons, a lazy shortcut. But at what cost?
I've always felt that one of the reasons we are put on this earth is to make a difference in others' lives, to share, to experience life together. But how can that happen when we are constantly hunched over some device? Lost in our own private worlds?
In many ways, life is a lonely journey, all too brief. Do you really want to reach the end of a day and say, "Well, I've got x-number of Facebook 'likes' and x-number of e-mails to answer and x-number of texts?" Big deal! Does it add to the enrichment of your day? Make you feel happy to be alive, the way real human contact can do?
I prefer to end my day by saying to myself, "I made someone laugh (maybe a stranger on the subway, whom I talked to)" or "I made a new friend today (sometimes a customer in the Bridal Salon where I work, who wants to stay in touch)" or "I brightened a stranger's day by stopping to compliment them on something they were wearing."
I remember when I first began to notice this dearth of conversation. It was when music became electronic---electric guitars, lots of microphones, etc. We'd go to a wedding or social function and the music would be blasting away. Even worse, the musicians behaved as though it was a concert, and we were there to hear THEM.
I remember being at a wedding where the music was so loud that people were going out to the lobby to escape the noise. Our host had repeatedly asked the musicians to tone it down, but to no avail. Finally, he stormed to the front of the room, announced "I'M paying you!" and pulled the plug. Good for him!
And it began to occur to me then than the younger people, who smiled apologetically across the table as if to say, "We'd love to talk to you, but, with this loud music . . ." were secretly glad not to be able to talk, because, when they did, they didn't know what to say! They were losing the art of conversation.
When we gave an affair some time later, we remembered those episodes. We hired a pianist and a singer (father and son, and very talented!), and no one else. After the event, many of our friends came up to us and thanked us profusely. Not for the low-key music, but because the relative quiet had given them the opportunity to meet and CONVERSE WITH many different people from our various social circles. Perhaps they made new friends that day, as well.
Let me close with a delightful episode that I experienced recently. I was standing outside the store where I work and saw a couple with a map, poring over it worriedly and speaking in German. I think I've mentioned that I lived in Germany for nearly two years while my husband was in the army. I approached them. The man's English was as limited as my German, but we managed to communicate and I gave him directions. Then, because I wanted to show him I had absorbed a bit of his culture while I was in his country, I held out my hand, said "Auf Wiedersehen!" and gave his hand the very vigorous shake that Germans prefer.
In response, he (clearly pleased to show that he had absorbed some of OUR culture) held out his palm to slap my palm, and announced, "Keep five!" I returned the salute and his greeting, and went on my way. I was so touched by his enthusiasm that I grinned for the rest of the day.
LIFE LESSON: Human contact beats machines any day of the week!