How Not To Be Alone: On technology making us less likely to be together

Grand Potentate

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If any of you missed this excellent OpEd by Jonathan Safran Foer, here it is. Definitely prescient in this day and age:

https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/opinion/sunday/how-not-to-be-alone.html

A COUPLE of weeks ago, I saw a stranger crying in public. I was in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, waiting to meet a friend for breakfast. I arrived at the restaurant a few minutes early and was sitting on the bench outside, scrolling through my contact list. A girl, maybe 15 years old, was sitting on the bench opposite me, crying into her phone. I heard her say, “I know, I know, I know” over and over.
What did she know? Had she done something wrong? Was she being comforted? And then she said, “Mama, I know,” and the tears came harder.
What was her mother telling her? Never to stay out all night again? That everybody fails? Is it possible that no one was on the other end of the call, and that the girl was merely rehearsing a difficult conversation?
“Mama, I know,” she said, and hung up, placing her phone on her lap.
I was faced with a choice: I could interject myself into her life, or I could respect the boundaries between us. Intervening might make her feel worse, or be inappropriate. But then, it might ease her pain, or be helpful in some straightforward logistical way. An affluent neighborhood at the beginning of the day is not the same as a dangerous one as night is falling. And I was me, and not someone else. There was a lot of human computing to be done.
It is harder to intervene than not to, but it is vastly harder to choose to do either than to retreat into the scrolling names of one’s contact list, or whatever one’s favorite iDistraction happens to be. Technology celebrates connectedness, but encourages retreat. The phone didn’t make me avoid the human connection, but it did make ignoring her easier in that moment, and more likely, by comfortably encouraging me to forget my choice to do so. My daily use of technological communication has been shaping me into someone more likely to forget others. The flow of water carves rock, a little bit at a time. And our personhood is carved, too, by the flow of our habits.
Psychologists who study empathy and compassion are finding that unlike our almost instantaneous responses to physical pain, it takes time for the brain to comprehend the psychological and moral dimensions of a situation. The more distracted we become, and the more emphasis we place on speed at the expense of depth, the less likely and able we are to care.
Everyone wants his parent’s, or friend’s, or partner’s undivided attention — even if many of us, especially children, are getting used to far less. Simone Weil wrote, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” By this definition, our relationships to the world, and to one another, and to ourselves, are becoming increasingly miserly.
Most of our communication technologies began as diminished substitutes for an impossible activity. We couldn’t always see one another face to face, so the telephone made it possible to keep in touch at a distance. One is not always home, so the answering machine made a kind of interaction possible without the person being near his phone. Online communication originated as a substitute for telephonic communication, which was considered, for whatever reasons, too burdensome or inconvenient. And then texting, which facilitated yet faster, and more mobile, messaging. These inventions were not created to be improvements upon face-to-face communication, but a declension of acceptable, if diminished, substitutes for it.
But then a funny thing happened: we began to prefer the diminished substitutes. It’s easier to make a phone call than to schlep to see someone in person. Leaving a message on someone’s machine is easier than having a phone conversation — you can say what you need to say without a response; hard news is easier to leave; it’s easier to check in without becoming entangled. So we began calling when we knew no one would pick up.
Shooting off an e-mail is easier, still, because one can hide behind the absence of vocal inflection, and of course there’s no chance of accidentally catching someone. And texting is even easier, as the expectation for articulateness is further reduced, and another shell is offered to hide in. Each step “forward” has made it easier, just a little, to avoid the emotional work of being present, to convey information rather than humanity.

THE problem with accepting — with preferring — diminished substitutes is that over time, we, too, become diminished substitutes. People who become used to saying little become used to feeling little.
With each generation, it becomes harder to imagine a future that resembles the present. My grandparents hoped I would have a better life than they did: free of war and hunger, comfortably situated in a place that felt like home. But what futures would I dismiss out of hand for my grandchildren? That their clothes will be fabricated every morning on 3-D printers? That they will communicate without speaking or moving?
Only those with no imagination, and no grounding in reality, would deny the possibility that they will live forever. It’s possible that many reading these words will never die. Let’s assume, though, that we all have a set number of days to indent the world with our beliefs, to find and create the beauty that only a finite existence allows for, to wrestle with the question of purpose and wrestle with our answers.
We often use technology to save time, but increasingly, it either takes the saved time along with it, or makes the saved time less present, intimate and rich. I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts. It’s not an either/or — being “anti-technology” is perhaps the only thing more foolish than being unquestioningly “pro-technology” — but a question of balance that our lives hang upon.
Most of the time, most people are not crying in public, but everyone is always in need of something that another person can give, be it undivided attention, a kind word or deep empathy. There is no better use of a life than to be attentive to such needs. There are as many ways to do this as there are kinds of loneliness, but all of them require attentiveness, all of them require the hard work of emotional computation and corporeal compassion. All of them require the human processing of the only animal who risks “getting it wrong” and whose dreams provide shelters and vaccines and words to crying strangers.
We live in a world made up more of story than stuff. We are creatures of memory more than reminders, of love more than likes. Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be messy, and painful, and almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die.
Jonathan Safran Foer is a novelist who delivered the 2013 commencement address at Middlebury College, from which this essay is adapted.
 
Its true, young people are incapable of resisting the urge to use the device in social settings at an alarming frequency, like every 3 or 4 minutes. Its really becoming a social problem. I keep tabs on this issue: I was at an MLB game last week, I surveyed the crowd at one point and noticed dozens and dozens of people "devicing". I was like, WTF, you paid money to ignore the game and text?

EDIT: the precedent for this is video games. Look what "gaming" has done, you have a generation of anti-social pot smoking fatties that sit in front of a console day and night and never speak to anyone.
 
I keep tabs on this issue: I was at an MLB game last week, I surveyed the crowd at one point and noticed dozens and dozens of people "devicing". I was like, WTF, you paid money to ignore the game and text?

Or at concerts. Its pretty fucking bad when everyone's too busy trying to record shit on their phones to just listen.
 
Being one of the old guys around here it's easy to see the results of this over several generations. What I see is scary. As the age of the crowd gets younger the worse it gets. I know people in the 20 something crowd who are incapable of any sort of meaningful interaction when in a face to face social setting. They tend to disconnect and go off and spend they're time tapping on an iPhone. What I find particularly annoying is when someone can't stay off their phone during a lunch or dinner meeting.


I'm 25 and I found this very true. When I go out for dinner or to grab a coffee with a friend or even when is a business meeting, I put my phone in the table and in silence. If it start vibrating because someone is calling, I don't answer and reject the call. I like to pay attention to what they are saying to me and I think that it shows I respect their time, their ideas and most of all, I respect them.

The way I see it, I have time to retunr the call, but I have to make the most of the moment with that person. Of course, the way the world moves now, most of the people I tell I do this, think I'm not normal. :(
 
I see it as a sign of disrespect when folks are devicing during a business lunch, and even meeting.
 
I also dislike when people at the gym are not using a machine but they are sitting on it texting or checking something in their phones. I never go with my phone to the gym, it's a time for me and I don't want to be bothered by the phone.
 
At stoplights, does anyone else notice that you have to honk at people now because they are looking down?
 
At stoplights, does anyone else notice that you have to honk at people now because they are looking down?


Yesterday I went to the bank, and to incorporate to the main street a lady was texting in the middle of the street. She stopped her car blocking us because she was texting. I was really pissed.
 
I also dislike when people at the gym are not using a machine but they are sitting on it texting or checking something in their phones. I never go with my phone to the gym, it's a time for me and I don't want to be bothered by the phone.


mmmmm. I enjoy using Google Drive (via Iphone) to track my lifts and progress. I also have no problem responding to brief texts while gymming.

I do get what you're saying though.

Re: the phone on the table. I remember seeing someone post a challenge on FB to take your significant other, or friends, or whoever out to dinner and leave the phones on the table. The first one to touch the phone had to pay.
 
Gotcha, but I guess you register your notes while you're resting for the next set or taking water or something like that.

I remember on time a girl was using a bench and we only have that one, since it she gym from where I live. I saw her writing on her phone and laughing, somimguessed she was texting, I came up to her a told her if we can alternate while she takes a break, she tells me tha she has one more set and she's done. I'm like ok, go on. She kept texting! I just changed to another exercise.
 
everytime parents go out and brings an ipad or tablet for their kids to use instead of them talking/socializing/interacting/exploring the outside world, a puppy dies a horrific death.

There must be a lot of dog fucking going on, because this is basically a picture of every single table I see when I go out to eat.
 
I remember going to a nice sushi place with the wife... saw an old client of mine with his 3 daughters. I was even thinking, "ain't that sweet, him bringing the girls to lunch" and from across the sushi bar where I was seated I saw them in their booth- when their food came, dear old dad whips out his ipad and plays a movie, and everyone was just watching it while eating.

jesus christ
 
Jesus would have back-slapped him right in the forehead.

Another element of this problem is kids can't be creative anymore. They can only consume entertainment, they have lost the ability to entertain themselves.
 
I remember going to a nice sushi place with the wife... saw an old client of mine with his 3 daughters. I was even thinking, "ain't that sweet, him bringing the girls to lunch" and from across the sushi bar where I was seated I saw them in their booth- when their food came, dear old dad whips out his ipad and plays a movie, and everyone was just watching it while eating.


Unbelievable!

Around here, and I've only seen this at the City, not in other states, these "new moms", new because they are young and I have to admit most of them are incredibly hot, they should be around 28-32 years old, married with much older fat guys, but you guessed right, very very wealthy dudes. So these girl go out to the mall with their kids and this is the scene. Mom is in front but she doesn't take his eyes out of the phone, the kids (most of them have more than two) walking behind shouting and making a mess, the poor "nana" trying to force them to behave and back of them two body guards. Everytime I see this, I think it's a no brainer why this girl married this guy and why she have all those kids. Gold diggers.
 
Apropos:

hDB6E3159
 
The big theme of the original article is that people grow to like and prefer whatever they consume and surround themselves with frequently. This goes a long way to answer my elitist ponderings on why the masses wear crap, eat crap, do crap. They've grown comfortable and familiar with it.

Despite being on the internet too much, the public aspect of cellular telephone diddling is something I abhor. Also, I see it as a class thing. The lower class thinks being in constant contact means they are important or popular. I see it as servitude, intrusion. I set the terms on how this technology can be used to help me and it stops after that.
 
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I also dislike when people at the gym are not using a machine but they are sitting on it texting or checking something in their phones. I never go with my phone to the gym, it's a time for me and I don't want to be bothered by the phone.

I play volleyball frequently with college students in two hour open gyms and in between every game a number of them will get on their phone while everyone else is done with their water break ready and waiting on the phone zombies to start a new game. I play with division II level athletes, highly competitive, not your barbecue variety.

Young adults can't go 20 minutes without getting online? Least they won't suffer long in future brownouts and blackouts.
 
I forgot about this thread and now I have been using Tinder and meeting some nice girls.
 
We wanna hear about the not nice girls.

:truestory:

Mexico is a busy city, so practically we have like two days to have a nice meeting. Tomorrow I'm going to meet another one and on Friday, another one. Next week on Friday, another. :)

Now I just need to keep the one from last Friday interested and make the second date with her. Although... the calendar might be busy.
 
Let's see what DressedWell thinks of this.. this is serious.

The girl with which I went out on Friday, we had a good time, at least she told me that at the end of the night. I did not wrote her the next day and worte her until Sunday. I haven't metioned any second date, cause well my schedule is busy and I need to meet some other girls, so for example if she told me that ok, let's go on a second date on Friday, I would need to cancel with another girl.

What would you do if you were me? Metion about the second date or just keep going?
 
No offense but you need a better hobby than millennial multi-dating if you can't schedule a second date a week after the first one that went well.
 
Tinder artfully captures the downfall of millennial youth and their abbreviated, over-extended expectations for everything.
 
Let's see what DressedWell thinks of this.. this is serious.

The girl with which I went out on Friday, we had a good time, at least she told me that at the end of the night. I did not wrote her the next day and worte her until Sunday. I haven't metioned any second date, cause well my schedule is busy and I need to meet some other girls, so for example if she told me that ok, let's go on a second date on Friday, I would need to cancel with another girl.

What would you do if you were me? Metion about the second date or just keep going?

If you like what you saw stick to it, if not that interested cut it from the very beginning. Don't go on a 'killing spree' if you know what I mean.
 
No offense but you need a better hobby than millennial multi-dating if you can't schedule a second date a week after the first one that went well.

Thing is... I have 19 more date to go with different girls

If you like what you saw stick to it, if not that interested cut it from the very beginning. Don't go on a 'killing spree' if you know what I mean.

I did not know what you mean on the last part.

She is cute and nice... but she doesn't like o exercise and she smokes... two big killers for me.
 
Thing is... I have 19 more date to go with different girls



I did not know what you mean on the last part.

She is cute and nice... but she doesn't like o exercise and she smokes... two big killers for me.
19 bitches? Jesus Betel, slow the fuck down.
 
I remember the days when the criteria for a woman was "smokes, sucks, fucks and drives a truck"

19 dates? That is crazy. Dial it down a notch or two!
 
She smokes? The smell alone is a big no no to me.

Exactly but you never know what could happen on the next date.

19 bitches? Jesus Betel, slow the fuck down.

I remember the days when the criteria for a woman was "smokes, sucks, fucks and drives a truck"

19 dates? That is crazy. Dial it down a notch or two!

Just be honest with us, didn't realize you're trying to staff a new escort service.

Hahahahahahaha!

Why did you think was the reason I was trying to improve my style? I need to make a good impression with my clients. :LOLguy:
 
I'm 25 and I found this very true. When I go out for dinner or to grab a coffee with a friend or even when is a business meeting, I put my phone in the table and in silence. If it start vibrating because someone is calling, I don't answer and reject the call. I like to pay attention to what they are saying to me and I think that it shows I respect their time, their ideas and most of all, I respect them.

The way I see it, I have time to retunr the call, but I have to make the most of the moment with that person. Of course, the way the world moves now, most of the people I tell I do this, think I'm not normal. :(

25 eh? I'm 26. What do you do for work?

Anyway, I do my very best to not have my phone out when I'm in the company of others. My circle of friends do it during coffee nights and a couple times I've simply stood up, told them to go fuck themselves and left. It pisses me off to no end!
 
I see it in my own home though. I wake up, mom's on her laptop looking at bags or the royals, all morning it seems. I mean right now, right fucking now, every one in my house is in a room, on a device. We really only have lengthier conversations during meals. I know I'm not immune to the lure of technology.
 
25 eh? I'm 26. What do you do for work?

Anyway, I do my very best to not have my phone out when I'm in the company of others. My circle of friends do it during coffee nights and a couple times I've simply stood up, told them to go fuck themselves and left. It pisses me off to no end!

I'm a Financial Advisor.

Does the forum has already two years? Now I'm 27.
 

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