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The Lost Art of People Watching

Posted on January 17, 2020 by dragonspitapothecary

I heard a podcast the other day that said North Americans have 0.7 friends today. The podcast was from England and was talking about the rise in reported cases of loneliness and depression. To emphasize the point they shared this stat about our lack of in real life friends. From their research we are so socially disconnected from real relationships, connections and friendships with others that it is impacting our health and mental well-being. The irony is that we are also the highest users of social media. It seems an oxymoron for sure. How is it possible for someone to have 0.7 friends, be lonely and depressed and yet have thousands of social media followers?

In many cases I guest this statistic should not be surprising. We live in an age where everyone is constantly on their phone and never looking up from it. We do everything from these little screens including getting a date, ordering food and paying bills. We are living in a time where many social places of the past like malls, restaurants and bars are closing from lack of business. We simply aren’t going out as much as our wild adventure selfie filled timeline suggests. Instead we fill out social media pages with shots of meals and ourselves supposedly having fun. However in reality we are not having fun and we are feeling very alone.

When I travel or go out somewhere where I have to wait it used to be interesting to people watch. It was easy to strike up a conversation and get to know someone in the span of sitting in a waiting room or airport terminal. Today, we don’t do so much of that. In September I was on a train in Utah with 2 friends and it was the morning commuters mostly on it. I sat across from my friends and a young lady took the seat across from me. I commented on her bag stating how incredibly cute it was and she said it was also waterproof. I asked a couple more questions to which she responded and then said she was going to return listening to her phone media, some music or something. She would rather listen to something recorded than engage with a live human. I didn’t take offense at this as we may have run out of things to talk about after discussing her cute backpack but I was sad at this response. If you ride a train to work or take a bus, notice how quiet it really is the next time you’re on it. No one is talking to one another.

Mental Health Awareness

In October there is a week dedicated to Mental Health Awareness. With the rise in depression, anxiety and stress we are feeling and the number of prescriptions for anti-depressants I say this needs more attention. The truth is we can actually self-heal from this situation in large part on our own. Well not technically on our own because it’s going to involve some very old-school socialization.

First I fully recognize there are introverts in the world. There are people who are just uncomfortable in large crowds and noisy places. However, many people are identifying as an introvert simply because we have become lax in our social interactions with others and it’s not convenient. Even introverts have to talk to others and in general we should all be actually talking with one another much more. As in real conversations with real people minus the technology unless it truly is that phone icon we’re using. It truly is sad when you think about the grocery stores even have self-checkouts robbing us of the opportunity to interact with other people!