I realize the other person is apparently talking to fresh air - to some unknown entity out there.
I move on, strangely uncomfortable, as the Bluetooth speaker continues to pull groceries off the shelf, while conducting this seemingly one-sided conversation.
You can't talk when you get in the dentist's chair . . .
Without a word the mother and younger son simultaneously pulled out their smart phones, and immediately became absorbed with them.
The older boy, about 15 or so, gave a look of despair, took off his backwards-facing cap, and started rotating it around helplessly in his hands. "I shoulda brought my laptop," he groaned to no one in particular.
No one was listening by that time. His mother and brother were tapping on their iPhones. So was everyone except him, and me, by this time amazed at what I was seeing.
I made eye contact with him, smiled and suggested maybe he could read a book. He looked completely shocked at the idea. "Don't you read?" I asked. He twirled the cap again."No" he said, obviously uncomfortable at my suggestion. I shrugged slightly, and went back to my writing. His mother and brother tapped on their phones, completely unaware even of this brief conversation.
I sensed him moving. He went over to the magazine rack and took a National Geographic. We made eye contact again, and both smiled. He had the sweetest smile. it was a smile that said, "OK. I'm going to try it, I'm desperate!"
His mother looked up briefly, but went back to her iPhone game. The younger brother was engrossed in his. The boy started turning pages, then he interrupted his mother to ask her a question. All three started to look at the magazine with interest.
The mother explained about the Titanic to the boys. It was wonderful to see the interaction. Then there was a pause. Immediately the cell phones once more became the centre of attention. Conversation stopped, and the lonely page turner continued on with the magazine.
Talking to children . . .
In a shopping cart at the checkout a small child, not even 2 years of age, sat quietly, staring into space, expressionless, an iPod attached to his ears. When they reached the checkout his young mother then put her own iPod onto her ears. There they were, about 10 minutes in all, completely without conversation. it was a sight that still haunts me. Surely mothers want and need to converse with their young children?
A bit about brain development . . .
It struck me that if the young mother had given her baby an appropriate book to read, look at pictures together and chat, the time to checkout would have been short for them, and surely mutual pleasure.
It's as though social media, instant messaging and technology in general have removed a really important thing from outer lives - that of interpersonal communication. Yes, you can chat away to friends online, but the context is missing.
Too much online - too little talking?
Are they saying they have run out of words . . . that the garbled nonsense of their peers means more to them than a real life chat with a parent ? (Assuming that the parent isn't tied up with on line fun)!
It's all new, and in many cases very tragic.
There is a restless quest for new media and devices. Facebook is fast becoming a place where the old people get together and post family pictures. The young ones are moving on to more exciting pastures.
Sites are popping up, ill conceived to be sure, and variations on Facebook, with the added a carrot of paying their subscribers fractions of pennies to talk about their daily lives. But those penny fractions mean people now spend hours daily, immersed in keeping up with their followers, when they could be having a whole lot more fun even meeting real people, working at minimum wage, and at least having others to see and chat with in real life situations.
Is "real" talking becoming redundant? Is life really so media obsessed that communication with others is becoming the biggest loss in society?
Have you had a 'real' chat with several 'real people' today?