Facebook. Email. Texting. Cell phones. We have the capabilities of being more connected than ever before. We can speak to someone miles away, even overseas, in real time - and for free! Then why is it that I feel more disconnected than I did growing up and going to college?
Growing up we would spend much of our days outside. We would go down to our neighbors, stand outside their door, and call them out in a sing-song voice. We rode our bikes to people's houses. We would sit and visit with a neighbor on her front porch glider. Our neighbors talked to us. We talked to them. We knew each other and cared about each other.
Over the 15 years we have lived here, we know only a handful of neighbors. Being one of the only stay at home moms, the neighborhood is very quiet during the day. While sitting on our porch or patio, few people are out and about. Most people will drive right by without so much as a nod or a wave.
I remember racing my siblings to the answer the ringing telephone. There wasn't any call waiting or caller id. We had a telephone in the kitchen with a super long cord. Now the telephone rings and no one moves. The kids have cell phones (except for our youngest), so they know the phone isn't for them. And, more often than not, it is some kind of telemarketer on the phone rather than a friend or family member. Few feel the need to call and catch up one on one anymore, especially when they feel "caught up" via Facebook posts and statuses.
Common pleasantries among strangers. I miss that. I do. The simple smiles. The "hellos." The "how are you doing today?" The "can I give you a hand with that?" Yep. I miss that. I really do. I will be in line and hear someone say "hello" only to look up to hear them continue to chat away with the unseen person talking in their ear. People look through the clerks ringing them up and look passed the people near them because they are more interested in... what? We don't see each other anymore. That makes me a little sad.
In college when signing up for classes we went to the IM (intermural) building and waited in line after line after line. If you needed to change a class you went into "The Pit" and you hoped to get out of there in time to still see the light of day. You would talk to people in line around you and commiserate with those in longer lines than you or caught in The Pit seeking and searching for classes that would work for them. Now all class registrations are done online. No lines. No talking. No commiserating. No contact. More efficient? Yes, I will give you that. But I don't know if what is being lost is worth it.
Am I grateful that my college daughter can shoot me a text or Skype with me so that I can keep up with what she is doing and see her sweet face? Absolutely. In fact, it has been a wonderful blessing. Am I grateful to be able to see what relatives who live far away are doing? Absolutely. I love seeing pictures and not feeling like they are so very far away. Am I grateful to have email to ask a question or find out about something that is going on? You betcha. However, email will never trump a hand written letter delivered snail mail!
I'm certainly not anti-technology and I feel that in many instances what I can do with the Internet and my cell phone are things that really can help me out in so many ways. So maybe some of you wonderful people can explain to me why in this world filled with more and more ways to keep us connected I often feel more disconnected than ever before?
"The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It's overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt." -- Leo Buscaglia