Observations of an ordinary man

Are You Paying Attention?

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A young man got on the train after me the other day and obviously wanted to get off at the next station so he stood in the middle of the doorway facing into the carriage. He was surprised when the people getting on behind him wanted him to move out of the way so they could also get on.

A couple of weeks ago I was walking through a mall and saw two women walking towards each other whilst texting, each oblivious to the other. Both pulled up short with surprise and annoyance that someone was in their way mere inches from headbutting each other.

These aren’t isolated incidents. More and more I see people moving about, paying no heed to anything that is going on around them. As we interact with each other more and more online, we seem to be less and less connected and engaged in the real world. As I walk down the street, I find myself dodging people that are more engrossed in their phone than the path ahead of them. I don’t think this is borne out of selfish tendencies; just that the real word is not part of the world they are currently engaging in. They even find it intrusive when the real world gets in the way.

A few months ago, whilst on a train, a young girl made a phone call to register an internet connection. During the call she gave out her full credit card details, full name, date of birth, address and responses to secret questions. If anybody had a mind to, they could have taken down the details and basically taken ownership of her identity and that can be a hard thing to reclaim. She just wasn’t paying attention to her surroundings. I also see plenty of people having private conversations on their phones on the train and then getting annoyed if they think people are listening in. If you want to have a private conversation, go somewhere private. Don’t have it on the train; you’ll be hard pressed to find a less private place than a peak hour train.

Being caught up in our own little world has other consequences too. Someone falls on the footpath and we veer around them, annoyed at the inconvenience that they have caused us. Less and less we seem inclined to help. When we see an accident, we whip out our phones and photograph it so we can post it to facebook so some people we’ve never met can “like” it and maybe, just maybe, it will go viral and we can feel good about that. The problem is, is that we are actually in the real world and we need to participate in it. We are becoming slaves to our technology and have trouble interacting with the world without it.

So here’s a tip, when you are out in the world, put the phone back in your pocket or your bag, look around and take part in the world. That text isn’t so critical that it can’t wait for 10 minutes and your facebook feed will still be there later.

Wake up and pay attention!

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