Bye Bye Humanity

Faye Riva Cohen
August 17, 2012 — 1,109 views  

Recently I took an Amtrak train trip to New York City. It used to be that one of the interesting things about traveling outside of one’s local environment was that it gave one an opportunity to meet new people and experience new things. I recall meeting interesting people over the years and having interesting conversations while traveling to and from someplace, and some of these people became acquaintances I kept up a relationship with for years. But, that is no longer the case, because it is very rare that someone initiates a conversation with strangers while traveling. Perhaps it is a generational thing, but people in their 20’s or 30’s seem to look through or not even look at, people of my generation. However, from my readings, I don’t think it is a generational thing. I think it is because people are either busy or want to appear busy working or typing, listening to music, or watching programs or movies or reading on their iPhones, Blackberry’s, iPads, Kindles, Nooks, computers, etc., and they don’t even take the time to say hello, or ask where and why someone is traveling, and they certainly do not ask a fellow traveler’s occupation, or engage in any behavior that can be remotely related to establishing some type of human contact.

For example, the young man next to me was listening to music, and did not attempt to make eye contact once. In fact, he seemed afraid to make eye contact. The young man on my companion’s side was wearing a large set of earphones and moving in rhythm to the music. The woman in front of me was talking to a friend in a loud voice for most of the trip, and I heard the conversation clearly (something I didn’t really want to overhear) about her travels and her life. In fact, on nearly every public transportation trip I take, someone is talking in an inappropriately loud voice for the duration of the trip, and the subject is usually mundane. I always wonder how it is possible that person on the other end of the line has the time to spend hours in the middle of the day on a mundane telephone conversation. Another woman, apparently from Spain, spent the entire time looking at Spanish news. Another woman was playing solitaire on an iPad. People these days seem to be tethered to some mode of electronic device, and appear to invent things to do, such as stay on the phone, so they will appear to be busy. Of course, those of us who have e mail know the hypnotizing effect of the need to constantly check e mails and text messages, so we are always doing that.

I recall years ago in Italy seeing people walking through Rome talking incessantly on their cell phones, years before they became prevalent in the USA. I thought it was really funny. Now, as the world has adopted this behavior, I no longer think it is funny. In fact, I see it as a diminishment of humanity. People need to speak with each other and communicate for many reasons. A “friend” has to be a real person, not someone who likes something you say and who you may never meet. We cannot make new friends or have interesting discussions or meet new people if everyone is talking to their current friends, or is entertaining themselves, or is removing themselves from humanity. Human isolation is bad on many levels—it can lead to health problems, it can lead to job problems, and it can lead to violence, as many people who commit crimes, and some of these are mass crimes, are often described as “loners”. Being a “loner” doesn’t always mean the person wants to be alone, but in today’s world, it is hard to get connected in a real, and not superfluous, way. As I am lawyer, I think this isolation will also lead to legal problems as people become less interested in trying to resolve their problems by communicating with each other, and instead rely on the legal system to assist them.

Faye Riva Cohen

I am Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire and am a Philadelphia attorney who has been practicing law since 1974. I am the president and managing attorney of both the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C. and Legal Research, Inc.