Having A Social Experience For Real

August 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog

My sister and nieces are visiting from Italy.  My nieces, twins, are fifteen and hooked up on all the gadgets teens love.

I had dinner with them at their rented apartment tonight.  But after dinner as if we all had rehearsed this many times we all went to our computers.  I stayed on for another hour and then said goodbye.  The girls were surprised I was leaving so early but I pointed out we all had been on our computers.

Driving home I thought of my dad always complaining that when we are all visiting him we spend a lot of time on our computers. He and my mom make a point to interrupt me.  They feel we are not connecting.

When I got home, a friend had sent me an article he had seen on a site, http://charactercounts.org/chron/2010/06/16/the-empathy-deficit/ he thought I would enjoy reading.

The post discusses different studies which show we, humans, are losing empathy.  On Scientific American’s 60-Second Psych podcast, Ed O’Brien a researcher said, “It’s harder for today’s college student to empathize with others because so much of their social lives is done through a computer and not through real life interaction.”   No need to convince me here.  I get it.

Our computers have become a source of information, social experience and in a way a meditative exercise in solitude.

When I am on my computer, going from site to site, sometimes with a defined purpose, sometimes just getting lost, time stands still and my mind occupied by the images and information presenting them to me enters into some kind of Zen zone.  It is easy for me to spend a day just experiencing that.  But then I think back to my dad who wants to hear from us – not get an email or text message – what our day was like, what we are thinking and feeling, and I know I must let my computer rest and go out into the world and relate, listen and build compassion.

When I see my nieces and sister tomorrow and will tell them that Friday in America is meet your neighbor day and I hope they will embrace this idea with the same excitement  they welcome a new Facebook friend request.

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