Too Many Lonely Dogs (5)

I read in the newspaper there is now a “movement” to have one day each week free from technology. (It also said most people in the United States check their cell phones 150 times a day. Gasp. Choke.) Because of time spent engaged with technology, the article went on, kids feel their parents aren’t present. I tend to see this in the grocery store, the child trying (and failing) to get their mother’s attention while they wheel the cart down the isle one-handed, talking on the phone. This isn’t anything new. It’s been going on for a long time now. I see dogs suffering when they’re out for a walk. The people on the other end of the leash are on their cell phones, talking or texting. The dog walks beside them. You can feel their sadness, their loneliness, their longing for their human. It’s supposed to be a special time to be together, connected in those quiet moments of mutual pursuit. Instead, I watch the dog walking alone, their human miles away. I’ve watched this for years with my students, too. The moment they step out of the classroom, their cell phones come out. If they have ten minutes to get to their next class, they fill it up. “Hi,” they say. “Where are you?” Too many people are never alone with their thoughts. They are listening to music, talking, texting. It’s rare to see people sitting on the bus just taking things in. Once in a while I see someone reading a real book, and it makes me glad. The act of reading is alive with imagination, and it can be looked up from, left in intermittent moments to become immersed in the environment. It doesn’t separate us in the same way. If there is truly a movement to leave technology behind one day a week, I’m all for it. I’ll even vote for two days. Because this trend has worried me for years. If we can’t be alone with our thoughts, can’t be comfortable in silence, what kind of life does that leave us? And I don’t think it’s only troublesome in terms of its toll on heart and soul. What about the vanishing attention span? I’m afraid we’re creating people who won’t be able to focus on one thing long enough for complex thought. And, well, too many lonely dogs.