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Socially UNsocial

I give up.

Where is the sociability? As I sit here looking out the vast window of my local java joint, I’m feeling like a social animal. I look around and it occurs to me that all of us here found our way to our local coffee house to meet up with a little bit of humanity rather than burrow in our homes steeped in blissful isolation.

So what’s wrong with this picture: I’m surrounded by at least twenty peeps, my peers, all of whom are deeply involved with their lap tops or iPods and no one is interacting with anyone…for hours?

For the love of God, why doesn’t anyone look up from their computer, throw a smile across the room and give a nod, a little chatter? How are the kids? What’s going on with your crazy boss? How was the movie? Did your wife leave you? Are you lonely?

I remember a time when I would take a walk to my local coffee house and strike up interesting conversations with the people there. Friendships were made and stimulating discussions were had. It was a wonderful touch of humanity.

Today I notice that we all look so average, so normal … so social. But as I sit here in the mecca of sociability, I’m getting the creepy feeling that we are all far from it.

Technology has connected the world in the past 30 years. I can reach out globally with this blog without leaving my chair. But has it brought us closer or further apart as people?

I’ve noticed lately that when I meet up with friends, they often end up talking with each other via their phones; playing games, sending messages, even though we are all in the same room just inches apart. There is something a little disconcerting about that.

Kids aren’t out playing ball, riding bikes, climbing trees or setting up lemonade stands. They are in front of their video games and interacting with peeps they don’t even know on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

How much intimacy have we lost with each other because we are spending so much time connecting to the world?

As I sit here, I see some people staring off into space with a tinge of sadness on their face. Some entrenched in their work, some looking lonely and a bit lost and others engrossed in loud phone conversations. It comes to mind that we are far from being social with one another, yet this place is filled with people making the effort. It’s all a bit confusing to me.

For a brief moment, our progress in technology seems more like a setback.

Maybe next time I’ll just stay home with the cat.


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Mel Glenn - I agree – social technology is making us even less social. I feel for you in the coffee shop. We are all becoming portraits by Edward Hopper. Everybody is so afraid (of intimacy) and needs a screen to erect a barrier.
Another excellent and important column.

Tammy - Mel, I love the comparison of the Edward Hopper portraits. Aren’t you a sassy pants!? It sometimes feels as if people don’t remember how to start a conversation. Maybe our reliance on technology has helped us to forget how important the art of conversation is. Thanks for sharing. So lovely to have you here!!

Ande Lyons - Tammy,

I feel your pain! As a mother raised in the 60s where the summer parental directions were ‘I expect you home when the streetlights turn on!’ … it’s SO hard to raise kids these days!

I have had to come to terms with the fact that my teen sons reach out across the Universe via technology… primarily FB and MindCraft and SKYPE. It’s their world… we cannot change it… we can only influence it a little… especially if you have the funds to send them to summer camp.

Which is where my guys go to learn how to live w/o cyberspace… how to get along under someone else’s tyrannical rule… to engage in belly-to-belly conversation with peers… and to play in the sunshine, fresh air and water… what a concept!

Everything today is ‘pay-to-play’ for kids. The art of showing up at the park to shoot hoop or hit the ball has been lost in most communities. (OK, it’s not that bad… but pretty darn close!)

The art of the ‘start-up’ conversation in cafes has been lost, too.

Here’s what I suggest we do: start a cyber-cafe movement… similar to the red hat movement… only we show up with tiaras and boas and huge smiles on our faces for our fellow cafe ubercyber users.

Our mission is to bring conversation to the laptop cafe world… don’t just say hello to your barrista… say hello to your fellow cafe companion, too!

What say you, dear Tammy? Are you in?

Below is a quote I recently posted on BBD’s FB page… I find it apropos for this post.


“Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other – it doesn’t matter who it is… and that will help you to grow into greater love for each other.”

~ Mother Teresa

Ande Lyons - PS: Oh for crying out loud… I forgot to remove the check in the box … for recent posts at BBD… whoops! :-*

Rick Gualtieri - It blows my mind sometimes at night, the family will be sitting around the living room with everyone a different device. Some days we have to force ourselves to unplug.

Joan Cooper - It all goes back to education. Are we civilized humans or what are we?

In my work, I manage some poorer condos where the women hardly have more than one dress to their names – BUT – they have that Ipod in their hand and they will not put it down.

In a way – it is “control”. The media is a “control”. We should talk about these things and study Hstory more. Not the history of dates and wars, but how people lived day to day. It is so interesting. Real life is interesting. You are certainly right about the blank looks on their faces. Where is the emotion? Aren’t you glad you grew up feeling emotion. Even at my age, I bet I have more emotion in me (especially for a great guy and beautiful music) than any young person today.

We need to talk about these things more. Thanks for bringing it up.

Joan Cooper

Tammy - Hi Rick, I know, right!!? When did it become this way? It’s not how we were raised. I think technology kind of sneaked up on the home front. I remember not to long ago we had a power outage. Nothing worked for hours. We played games, talked, went to a bar and visited with strangers. It was awesome. We need more days like that! Thanks for the post … always a pleasure hearing from you!

Michael Belk @workplace ethics - It seems like the more avenues we have for social methods the less likely we are to communicate.

I believe it is hard to get people to talk unless they know each other.

It has always been that way.

Tammy - Hi Ande, everything in moderation, right? Life is a balancing act. Knowing when to unplug is a big part of it for me, personally. I’m just as guilty as the next gal for staying on my computer, iPad or iPhone too long. Things pass me by; I miss out or lose a chance to exchange thoughts with someone who matters. All of this is not okay. I’m learning. I long for the days when I’d go to the local watering hole and kibitz a bit with total strangers and some newly made friends. I’m hoping our kids get to know that feeling too. Operative word is: engage! Engage with people, places not things! Habits die hard but teaching it to our kids will make their life all that much better. You, my dear, are an awesome lady. It would be lovely to meet you one day. Thanks for being here!

Tammy - Hi Joan, yes, we do need to talk about these things more. Real life and real people are uber interesting! Engaging with them results in so much more than a score on a game or a chat with an unknown entity. Not to mention the skill set that is being lost without the face to face introduction, exchange and gratefulness of the moment. Shame on us. Thanks for piping in. Always enjoy your point of view!

Tammy - Ande, you crack me up! My grandfather would always use that expression: Oh for crying out loud Tamera Jean! Thanks for the memory (giggle).

Tammy - Hi Michael, you are SO right. The art of communicating, and thus, building relationships, seems lost. I remember sending my daughter to Cotillion at a very young age. Be first to speak, look someone in the eye, shake their hand, and engage in a conversation. Priceless! Yes, it’s hard to talk to people unless you know them, but what better way to forge new relationships? Closing the laptop and muting the phone is a good place to start. Facing our fear of speaking first can result in some pretty awesome friendships. So very happy to have you here and so grateful for your post!

Carol - So observant! Seems the more we’ve become tech savy, the more Isolated we’ve become. Love how you write with grace
And humor.

Pamela O'Mack - Great read, Tammy! I think you are on to something. Have you heard of the Eva Restaurant in LA, whose owner is offering patrons a 5% discount to leave their cell phones at the door? It’s a small restaurant (42) people, and the owner just wanted customers to enjoy fine food and conversation with other diners. He said that, so far, he has had no customers that thought this was a bad idea!

Tammy - Thanks, Carol. So, so happy to have your here! I’m not exactly tech savvy but am guilty of spending way too much time on my computer/iPad/iPhone. I am a work in progress. Appreciate your post tons!

Tammy - Hi Pamela, no, I haven’t heard of that restaurant, but I will be visiting it very soon thanks to you. I appreciate their effort to bring us back to good old conversation, a delicious meal and a slow coffee. Awesome! I have to tell you that I almost decked someone the other day who was yelling in to her cell phone for 20 minutes at a restaurant. How could you not think that is rude? The art of the “chat up” seems to be dieing a slow death. Too bad. My iPhone and computer won’t talk with me about my day and help to reason some of the problems away. Something to think about. Thanks so much for posting!!

Kellie - I am a big lover of technology. However, with these great inventions comes the down side … non-social society. Yes I go to coffee shops where not even a smile is thrown back in my direction. The person afraid of engaging in conversation and most young kids don’t even know how to converse any longer. It shows on interviewing skills the young kids very poor interaction or customer service skills … sad huh?

Tammy - Hi Kellie, you sure hit the nail on the head with your comment about how so many young people these days don’t have interaction or interview skills. Customer service? I rarely find it these days and usually when I do it comes from a seasoned (nice way of saying over 50) professional. We are nothing if we can’t communicate with each other. It’s so sad to me that people don’t ‘reach out’ anymore. I talk with peeps on a long elevator ride and sometimes their faces show fear and mortification. Seriously. When computers didn’t exist the world was a more friendly place. Of course we were also in the dark about so many things. I’m thinking the key is balance. Now…all we have to do is find it. Thanks for the read and the post! Always a pleasure.

Laura Lee Carter aka the Midlife Crisis Queen - “We are living in an isolation that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors, and yet we have never been more accessible… in this world of instant and absolute communication, unbounded by limits of time or space, we suffer from unprecedented alienation… We live in an accelerating contradiction: the more connected we become, the lonelier we are.” from the article “Is Facebook making us lonely?” Atlantic Magazine. My answer? YES!

cheryl - Well said as always. By the way were you in a coffee shop when you wrote this blog?????love ya

Tammy - Hi Cheryl, glad you enjoyed the read. No. I don’t usually write in public places. I go there to soak up the locals, take a break with my pup, Maddy, to listen and to chat. Harder to do these days since no one seems to want to look anyone in the eyes. Kinda scary in a weird way. I was taken aback a bit with how sad and serious everyone seemed to be. Made me think …. then it made me write. Thanks for popping in and posting!

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