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6.26.2012

THE COMMON DENOMINATOR


Riding the train into Chicago yesterday I was struck with a vivid image of the times.  Granted commuter train passengers are typically quiet.  There are pairs or small groups that might be travelling to or fro the city that know each other, but typically it's a very aseptic sort of mood.  Disconnected.  Everyone en route but not really interested in sharing their lives with virtual strangers who come and go with every stop.

I glanced around the train, sizing up the people that were on the car with me.  Some appeared to be without significant economic means.  Others, looked like they were travelling to stay in the city overnight with luggage in tow like us.  A few on their way home from work carried computer bags and were dressed in young professional urban wear. 

Where we boarded the train to the last stop downtown Chicago at Randolph Street is roughly two and half hours.  People boarded and de-boarded at every stop between our beginning and end destination.  They all had somewhere they were leaving from and somewhere they were going to.  We all shared that commonality.

More than that though, we shared something that was universal.  As I glanced around the train nearly everyone had some form of smart phone or smart device out in use.  I saw no one reading a book or a newspaper.  Instead, everyone was using their smart devices to entertain themselves - to waste the time it took to go from one place to another.  There was just a quietness on the train as everyone occupied themselves with heads bent down navigating their smart devices.

Behind me diagonally was a rather large overweight man in gray sweat pants (not a good look on anyone let alone someone who was that large) who brought on a shopping bag from McDonalds with enough food and calories to feed our entire train car.  He seemed to not have the greatest wardrobe and opted for elastic which aided him in his excessive consumption of McDonalds.  After wiping the french fry and burger grease from his hands and downing a 32 ounce Pepsi, he got his Ipad out.  Yes, an Ipad.  He didn't look like he could afford much, but he had a several hundred dollar Ipad.

That is my point.  No matter our economic situation, technology is not optional any more.  It is like food, housing, water and oxygen to us.  I giggled a bit inside at how the world has changed.  At how we cannot seem to disconnect ourselves from news, games, social media, email, texting, searching for information.  We don't ever really shut down.  Are we afraid we will miss something?  Do we not like life without technology?  We would be able to live fully without a smart device?

For me I don't want anything to become the thing that dominates all of what I am and do.  I wondered sitting there how much time we fritter away on smart phones that we could be doing something that produces a result.  Or at the very least, something that doesn't perpetuate yet a another addiction.

There is no turning back I am afraid.  Our culture now has a whole generation that knows nothing but a world of smart phones and Ipads.  What I think you will see next is studies done and books written about the need for a re-emergence to acknowledging we need to occasionally unplug and connect to the real world.  Good always comes with the possibility of the evolution of it toward excessive, out of balance.  It has swung there!

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