Last Friday, the unthinkable happened in Newtown, Connecticut. The news coverage makes me sick to the point where I had to completely shut it off after a few hours on Friday. Not because I didn’t care about what happened there, believe me, it has affected me deeply. I turned it off because the media does nothing but add fuel to this disturbing fire engulfing our country. They glorify these killers, when we should forget about them. I don’t want to know his name, see his face or know his reason. Grieving families shouldn’t be paraded in front of cameras while pushy reporters exploit their pain.
On top of it all, a raging debate has exploded on social media. Heated deliberations over gun control versus the state of our mental healthcare system. Finger pointing and hateful shouting spews from the keyboards of people hiding behind a screen. We’ve reached a scary point of paranoia and extremism in our country that’s only pushing us, as humans, farther and farther apart.
I’ll be the first to say that I’m guilty of constantly checking my phone to see the latest updates from news outlets and/or friends. Half the time, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. That’s a huge part of our problem. Not just for me, but for all of us. We are mindlessly consuming an ungodly amount of needless information in place of actual human interaction.
I spent this past weekend with a friend in New York City, which is perhaps one of the most chaotic and diverse places on the planet. After a couple of days of touring all the various Christmas spots around the city and dodging in and out of masses of people, we found ourselves tucked inside a small pub in the West Village with incredible ambience. A fire was roaring in the fireplace while the cold and rain blew outside. I reached into the pocket of my jacket as we settled into some stools at the bar and habitually pulled out my phone to scan it over. I discovered it was dead, likely from a day full of battling a couple million other people for a tower signal.
The thing is, I was kind of relieved. It was like my eyes really opened and I could truly appreciate where I was and just enjoy the moment without the distraction of the world in my pocket. It was honestly one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time because I was completely there without diversion.
Now, I’m not swearing off technology or even social media completely. It does have a way of bringing us closer when geography keeps us apart. But there’s a line that too many of us have crossed where it starts to have the complete opposite effect.
It’s time to focus more on the actual, real people in our lives. Get to know them beyond their Facebook profile. Embrace our differences and learn from each other, rather than going off on tangents about things or situations we don’t truly understand and driving people away.
And perhaps, when we humanize each other again, the violence and hate will stop. That may elicit an eye roll or twelve, but I believe it wholeheartedly. It’s not as simple or easy as that statement makes it sound and it’s not an instant fix. But every act of kindness you enact every single day, no matter how small, will contribute to the survival of humanity.
Baby steps, friends. We’ll get there. Be good to each other.
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