Every person has their head down, buried into a device. No one is making eye contact. All you can hear is the sound of a clock ticking…silence. Would it be strange to talk to the person next to you? To simply say, ‘How’s your day going?’ It definitely would be.
This is a situation that is becoming far too prevalent. A situation where people are becoming so engrossed in their phone or laptop that they ignore the world and people surrounding them. I’ve noticed this happen multiple times: when waiting for a uni lecture to begin, in an elevator or even sitting in a bar. When there is an awkward moment of silence, our natural response is to pick up our phone and start scrolling. Consequently, not only are we becoming disconnected from the world but we are also forgetting how to connect.
If we backtrack 40 years – when mobile phones weren’t invented – our social interactions were entirely different. This was a time when talking to complete strangers was commonplace. A time when you had no option but to sit outside a lecture theatre and have a chat. A time when you would sit at a bar and talk to everyone, because as my parents would say, “That’s just what you did!”
The most disconcerting notion about technology absorbing our attention is that we lose the ability to interact with people we don’t know, even in situations where we aren’t on our devices. The result- we simply avoid branching out and meeting new people. If we go out we only talk to the people we arrive with. We stick to our agenda for the night and stay in the company of our close friends.
When you do this, you miss opportunities- fun, spontaneous, enjoyable and perhaps even life-changing moments. You miss talking to that cute person sitting next to you who could be a potential partner. You forfeit opportunities of meeting people from different realms of life with distinct experiences compared to the friends you usually hang out with. You lose out on the chance to talk with older people who have knowledge and life lessons that they can pass on. Ultimately, these lost opportunities stunt your growth as a person.
So how do we change this? How do we prevent ourselves from becoming so engrossed in our own lives that we can no longer connect with others? The answer is very simple- start by saying ‘Hi’. If you’re waiting outside a lecture theatre, get off your phone, look around and say ‘Hey’ to the person next to you. If you’re in an elevator, don’t feel the need to look down at the floor, smile at those around you. If you’re at a bar, greet that cute guy or girl, you never know where it might lead you.
From my own experience, this can initially be awkward. I felt slightly uncomfortable opening up to other people. However, like anything, the more one does it the easier it gets. Putting down your phone and speaking to new people will be a decision you won’t regret. I assure you, knowledge, growth and laughter will be the only things that follow.