This week I have been preoccupied by what appears, to me, to be an increasing lack of social etiquette, manifesting in an absence of true connection and communication. This prolific detachment from each other has played on my mind; it has gnawed away at me until I could no longer keep it to myself. I have been wondering if this phenomenon I am witnessing has anything to do with the advent of social media; the fast pace of modern life or a gradual decline in basic human interactions.
Has anyone else noticed how very lazy we have become? Scrolling through a social media site I realised we have become depersonalised. We have come to accept that by clicking a little icon and giving the thumbs up we believe we have adequately communicated with our ‘friends’ virtual or otherwise. I wonder if this sloppy means of communication has led us to forget social conventions when confronted with actual social engagement with others.
Has this lack of thoughtful communication led to the discourtesy evident in many aspects of life? Years ago, before we had mobile phones, Twitter, Facebook and the like I rarely witnessed the instances of road rage apparent today and the general lack of care and concern for others I see on a daily basis. The absence of manners I observe still boggles my mind. What has happened to the basics – thank you, excuse me and please?
It saddens me when out walking that people will, on approach, avert their eyes, look down, turn away so as to avoid simple pleasantries. Several times I have been ignored after wishing someone a cheerful “Good morning”. Thinking perhaps my squashed still pillow lined face was sending an unwelcome message to approaching walkers I engaged in some people watching to ascertain if people were responding to me alone in a negative way or if the behaviour was more widely spread. My research revealed this behaviour is not due simply to my own off putting facial expressions but is, sadly, a common occurrence.
This lack of communication and common courtesy extends further. Indicators in cars were once considered a necessary condition of driving. Today, however, I find we are required to utilise our powers of telepathy as more and more motorists fail to use the small communication lever designed to demonstrate their intent to turn or to change lanes. What happened to the friendly wave we once gave when someone let us merge into their lane? I miss these little niceties.
Back to the possible ‘root of all evil’ – social media. I have noted the use of the iconic upright thumb being used in confusing ways. A friend recently posted about his grief after the loss of a dearly loved grandparent and shared his great sadness. Trying to take a brave stance at this difficult time my friend also relayed he was going to remember the good times spent with his grandparent. Several other ‘friends’ responded by clicking the little upright thumb icon. Now, this is where my concern and confusion arises. Did they ‘like’ his loss? Were they indicating they liked his current state of grief? Or were they responding to the positive outlook of my friend and his intention to focus on happy memories??? Surely, in this instance, it would have been more appropriate to formulate an entire sentence to communicate condolences. Now I know people often feel awkward responding to grief but another situation arose just this week that caused me to question our communication skills and intent. A friend reported they had endured a very difficult few weeks, was depleted and exhausted and was taking time out to rejuvenate in the bush. Again, several thumbs up. Again, I wondered – what do you like? Do you like; that this wonderful person has been through the wringer? That this caring woman is feeling wrung out, limp, drained? Or were these responses, these ‘likes’, supporting her strategy to get away from it all to regain her sparkle?
Similarly, I have read thought provoking blogs that much time and effort have been poured into by the writer to observe several ‘likes’ and only one or two comments. Do we disregard each other so much that we cannot say what we liked, pass on our appreciation for the author’s thoughts? Can we not take time even to question some of the ideas within said writing? Are we really so busy that we must hastily scroll through messages and smack our approval tag on items that catch our attention for several nanoseconds before moving on with our very important, very busy lives. Have we lost our voices?
Do I have it all wrong? Am I out of line? This behaviour certainly appears to be perfectly acceptable to a large majority. While this sounds like a big rant, I do realise that many modern inventions make our lives easier. I appreciate too that the lovely little upright thumb is a handy and convenient means of registering our agreement, our having checked in, our approval and liking of certain material. I use it myself. Surely though, there is a time to employ small social conventions and extended discourse to communicate and demonstrate our true interest in each other. Perhaps I’m out of touch but to me this current, prolific superficiality seems askew in a day and age where more people are craving deeper connections, more meaningful interactions and relationships.
As always, when something like this piques my interest, gnaws away or bugs me I know it is a mirror reflecting areas in my life I should endeavour to improve. With the words of Ghandi ringing in my ears –
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
I set an intention for the remainder of this month and next (start small) to create better connections with those around me – in the real world and the virtual world by communicating more fully and more regularly by sharing of myself and taking time to acknowledge and value the people I come into contact with on a daily basis. I invite you to join me on this quest to reclaim our voices, to reconnect, to communicate, to converse, to contribute in meaningful ways with each other.
I also invite you to respond to this blog. I am interested in knowing if you too have noticed changes in the way we communicate and if it is at odds with the way you think and would like to interact. Do you disagree, have I missed something, do I need a little nudge to look more broadly at the issue?
Great blessings to you this week,