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Too busy to listen, too self-occupied to care

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 11.29.46 PM

The woman in the above photograph was positioned two seats away from me earlier this evening.

This blog post is about her.

And it’s not about her. It’s about society, and what we seem to be turning ourselves into.

I digress. The wife and I traveled to Los Angeles to attend a movie screening—a haunting, touching, crushing movie screening. The film, titled “Happy Valley,” concerns the sexual abuse scandal that took place at Penn State a few years back. It’s a documentary that features, among other things, the heartbreaking saga of Matt Sandusky, the adopted son of Jerry Sandusky and a victim of sexual abuse. I can’t say enough good things about the work of filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev, and I can’t say enough good things about Matt—who attended the event, then stood before an audience of, oh, 150 people and took one question after another after another.

Which is where the woman comes in.

We were two rows back, in clear view of Matt Sandusky. He stood there, clearly a bit nervous, somewhat awkward, courageous as could be. He talked about his boyhood. He talked about his adopted family. At one point, he talked about feeling suicidal.

And the woman checked her phone.

She was on Facebook.

And on Facebook some more.

And some more.

She texted.

More Facebook.

We were in clear view of the man. He was there. We were here. And, somehow, she didn’t care. Didn’t show an ounce of interest.

Infuriating.

But, really, this is who we have become, and I’m not sure why. Slaves to our phones. Slaves to immediacy. Last weekend, I attended a Bat Mitzvah in New York. It was as fun as could be—killer DJ, amazing food, a photo booth, a basketball game, prizes. On and on and on. I’d say, oh, 80 percent of the kids in attendance spent the majority of time on their phones.

It was painful to behold. The Bat Mitzvah girl lit a candle for her deceased great-grandmother—phone. The Bat Mitzvah girl had a first dance with her father—phone. I know it is what it is; I know I’m old and whiny and out of the loop.

But something’s wrong here.

Something’s genuinely wrong.

One reply on “Too busy to listen, too self-occupied to care”

I know social norms have changed, and technology has made staying connected possible. The interview with Lisa Saxon to which you linked a couple of days ago describes how difficult it was for her to stay in touch with her fiancee in the days before cellphones, Facebook, fast internet, whatever. But rudeness and self-absorption are rudeness and self-absorption in any age or generation.

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