Gen…What The Hell Happened

The Silent Support Army, My Life As A War Veteran’s Wife

Working in the Veteran support space means I travel a lot for work.  I use this time away from family to reflect, observe and interpret what is going on around me.  Tonight, is no different. On a very quick trip back to my old stopping ground I find myself in a hotel I haven’t stayed at before, sitting on a balcony overlooking what I think is a backpackers hostel.

Whilst I can’t say that I am enjoying this hotel very much, I will say that it is providing me an ideal opportunity to indulge in my favourite pass time of people watching. A pass time that I seem to have little time for of late.  Now to be clear, this is not the creepy stalker type people watching but rather what I like to think of as an observation of human interaction.

Let me give you a recap of tonights activities. A couple of blokes are walking up the three flights of stairs carrying a slab of VB and a guitar having a laugh, a woman is struggling to carry her washing in a basket past them to the laundry room and an elderly couple watch her while they enjoy their after dinner cups of tea outside their room before turning in.

“A symphony of stories playing out simultaneously and yet I can’t hear any of the music”.

One man is watching Netflix on his laptop quietly through his headphones, a lady sitting cross legged outside her room enjoying a cigarette is watching her mobile phone through her air pods. A man walks towards her waving at her to get her attention…he too is wearing his headphones but she doesn’t notice him and the look on his face tells me he disappointed that she has defected an opportunity to have a chat with him. Albeit a new communication style is emerging for those that can hear however prefer to use an array of hand signals to have a conversation. A symphony of stories playing out simultaneously and yet I can’t hear any of the music.

Now this is nothing new, I see this behaviour everyday regardless of location but seldom do I have the time to sit and have a good hard think about it but on a Friday night 3000 kms away from my peoples, I have nothing by quiet time on my hands to have a look at what is really going on.  Which leads me to ask this question, when did we become so connected to our virtual worlds and so disconnected to our real one?

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I am wondering if it this human disconnection is a challenge for everyone or just my generation, the Gen Xers?  I am convinced that our generation has embraced technology, without a doubt, however I wonder if it is our generation that struggles with reconciling the disconnectedness the most. Most us grew up in an era with little technology. You know what I mean, phones connected to walls, calculators that didn’t double as a phone, a camera and a watch and music that was played on large bulky cassette players that sat beside you on the front seat of car if you weren’t lucky enough to have a player build into you dashboard.

Instead of spending hours in virtual worlds we lived in the real one. Playing cricket or riding our horses, swimming in watering holes and occasionally getting up to mischief un-be knowns to our parents…I suppose the latter is the same across the generations.  Our generation is the one that spans both worlds, one with and without technology. We grew up in one world but need to not only engage with, but master technology in our new world?

The hours spent observing my neighbours over the past few days have left me wondering, have we lost the art of having a conversation with others, are we losing the ability to have a light hearted conversation or a robust debate about the news of the day? Is it just easier to have a one sided relationship with Facebook or our Insta-influencers that encourage us to part with our cash or is it just easier to reset our exhausted brains by playing a game of candy crush or live in a virtual world of a zombie apocalypse?

My question to you is this, do we succumb to our new normal where we communicate only when we are ready and do that over text or messenger  or do we fight the good fight and preserver in the hope that we can find a place where we own technology, that it doesn’t own us and that we have the wisdom to realise this before we forget reality?

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