Communal Non-communicativity

Had to stop by my alma mater the other evening to return some books to the library. It’s the summer session, so the set of students out and about is pretty slim. Over and over, though, each student that I did see had a cell phone pressed to his or her ear as they moved about campus. Standing at the bus stop in the dark: cell phone dimly glowing. Walking to the library alone: cell phone to the ear. The best was two students obviously walking together: both with cell phones to their ears.

The entry’s title is ‘Communal Non-communicativity': it’s as if we’ve decided that there’s no value in the chance encounter communication. Each spare moment is precious, and that communication slot has to be used for something important; something already known; someone on your speed-dial.

That same night, I had my cell phone hooked to my belt. Earlier in the day, on my walk to the supermarket to grab a bite for lunch, I had called a friend. Making good use of the time, I thought. The other day, on my drive home, I called another friend I hadn’t talked with in a while, just to catch up. The odds of me finding the time after I had gotten home were just so slim, using the commute time worked wonderfully to catch me up on her life.

Been running across articles and reading a book lately on Americans lack of shared experience or random cross-pollination of ideas. What we lose when we concentrate solely on our individual interests, be they an iPod full of “our” music, customized news sources, chat rooms online, … That’s a whole entry of itself. But it was just surprising to see it in action so forcefully on a walk across a darkened college campus.

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