Dissociation and the Modern Being

I’ve noticed more and more how people seem to be disconnecting from each other.  With all the wonderful technology available to us today, it’s easier than ever to never say a word to the person sitting next to you on the train or bus, or even standing in the elevator.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty.  If I’m going to spend significant amounts of time traveling somewhere, I tend to bring a book to read, or my mp3 player.  However, I don’t sit at a restaurant with friends, with my nose in my cell phone, texting someone else, or answering Facebook quips.

I can’t help but watch WALL-E – with the people moving around on their own hovercrafts, staring at screens and never noticing the people moving past them – and not worry about the future of our human interactions.  I know there’s a big push by the technology gurus out there to have everyone “constantly connected”.  Buy why?  Is there really such a need to spend every available moment looking on Facebook or Twitter and document every little thought or small activity you do?  I don’t mean to diss anyone who does that, but I wonder if it’s a sign of something deeper; a fear of connecting to someone else.

We long for human connection – even looking for love in all the wrong places (my apologies to Johnny Lee fans) – yet, we’ve become so “plugged in”, that we fail to see there are other people looking for interaction as well . . . many times not five feet from us.

Do we avoid those people because we don’t know them?  If so, that’s a shame.  As Will Rogers said:

A stranger is just a friend I haven’t met yet.

There have been times when I’ve ridden the bus, and someone I’ve never met before has started up a conversation with me.  It does seem weird at first, and I’ll admit that sometimes my initial thought is one of “leave me alone”, but then I realize that they’re just craving a little human interaction, and we’ve had fine conversations.  Not always, but sometimes.  I even met an ex-boyfriend because he came up to me when I was sitting at a Denny’s at 2am.  I initially thought he was drunk and that I’d never hear from him again, but that relationship wound up lasting 5 years, and I have some fond memories of our time together.

I also remember riding a bus home one time, and seeing a group of people outside holding signs up that said “Free Hugs”.  It was around Christmas time in Chicago, and these people were walking along Michigan Avenue.  Yes, they got a lot of stares from passersby, but there were also quite a few people who went to cash in on the free hug.  Heck, I actually got off the bus miles before my stop just so I could get one.  It was a great moment to connect with someone, and I got a hug to boot.  What’s not to love about that?

It seems that many of us are so afraid of confrontations, we feel it’s easier to hide behind the safety of the internet, or via a text.  People break up with each other via text, or write a scathing email or blog to or about someone because they can’t say it directly to the person.  We’re so afraid of the other person’s reaction, that we try to distance ourselves from it.  Now, I’m totally for writing a letter to someone who’s hurt you in the past and not sending it, or even to have a mock conversation with an adversary to get your feelings out without having to worry about offending them.  I think those things are healthy to a certain extent, and can help you plan out what you’ll actually say to someone.  However, I don’t think they should preclude actually facing the other person.  You can’t avoid confrontation forever.  It will find you eventually.

I also wonder if part of the reason many people spend so much time “connected” is because they don’t want to be alone with their thoughts.  I’m not talking about reading books or magazines, or keeping up on friends or business via texting or smartphones; I’m pinpointing the person who has the radio on, while the TVs playing and they’re also on their computer, while talking on the phone with someone.  To be that plugged in seems to me like they’re afraid for any silence.  Are they trying to block out their thoughts with all that “noise”?  It makes me wonder if they even like themselves.

I think technology is a wonderful thing, and I embrace it in nearly all aspects of my life, but every now and then, it’s nice to connect with people face to face, away from technology.  No cell phones.  No texting.  No Facebook or Twitter.  Just mano a mano.  You actually get to see the emotions on people’s faces that way.  Their smile.  Hear their laughter.  Maybe even get a hug or two . . .


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dana
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 10:45:37

    I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said in this post. I love my tech, yes, I do, but I also LOVE not being ‘plugged in’ all the time. I don’t WANT people to be able to reach me if I’m spending time with Dave. There is very little respect for down time in today’s culture and it drives me crazy. I also think peoples’ tendency to text/Tweet/FB no matter where they are or what they’re doing is engendering a culture of rudeness and a lack of ‘sharing space’ with others. Emotional space, physical space, spatial awareness…


    • Alyx Morgan
      Jun 03, 2011 @ 10:57:01

      Hear, hear, Dana! I’ll even keep my phone many times when I get home. Thankfully, I don’t have tons of friends who call me a lot, because I would go stir crazy if that phone rang all the time.


  2. Maddy
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 11:35:44

    You’re right,it’s all a question of balance – I’m on the computer now, but I’m just back from a long walk of almost solitude with the dog and the occasional jogger passing by. However, I did connect with real human beans last night with my critique group and not a phone in sight.


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