“The other day I passed a young woman who was texting and crying, bending intently over her phone as strangers brushed past her on the sidewalk….My normal first impulse – and, I think, most people, even in Boston–would be to make some sort of compassionate gesture, even if it’s just to ask, “Are you okay?” But this time any such instinct was overridden by technology.”
So described Carlo Rotella, Director of American Studies as Boston College. in his essay, A good cry in digital isolation. (www.newspaperdirect.com)
I often observe people walking with phone glued to their ear, apparently oblivious to all around them. And you have observed – mothers pushing strollers, commuters wobbling in traffic, riders on the T, teens on the beach – all ears attached to their cell phones, apparently blind and deaf to their surroundings. Would you dare to ask them for directions? Would you confidently comment on the beauty of the day? Would you point out that their child is dribbling ice cream all over his shirt?
Like Rotella , probably not.
The electronic devices seem to suck attention and sensitivity. And further, create an invisible bubble around the person. Glassy-eyed students intently mesmerized by laptop screens. Ear buds and ipods silencing external sounds of bird song and car horns.
Rotella ends his essay with a question unanswered – what kind of people is this equipment teaching us to be.
The other day I watched in horror as a bomb exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon and another bomb exploded two blocks away, seemingly louder and stronger than the first. While people screamed in the confusion, many ran toward the blast where they knew the injured lay needing help. It was not a matter of are you okay? It was how can I help? Untrained bystanders made tourniquets, staunched bleeding wounds, offered comfort until first responders and medicos arrived.
Cell phones clogged the waves and were shut down.
Without technology. City residents offered stranded runners shelter, blankets, directions. People helped each other find their loved ones in the chaos. Off duty doctors and nurses rushed to the scene to help. And, spectators made their way to hospitals to give blood.
Technology has not overtaken humanity, yet. Technology can isolate us. Technology can connect us. It is still our choice.