A few weeks ago, a professor of mine shared some dreadful news on Facebook: there have been four self-inflicted deaths in her community in the last month, three of those being teens or young adults.
Now, we can choose to say, "Oh, how tragic", and move on. But for the sake of these people who felt the need to take their own life, I implore you to please take a minute to really look at what we're doing to each other when we choose to be glued to our cell phones. Do you see the damage being done to those around you and to yourself?
My professor was also approached by several students revealing that they feel disconnected and that it's difficult to make friends. This social detachment continues to be expedited by our phone addiction.
Here on my college campus, I look around and I see almost everyone with their heads down staring at their cell phones walking to class. No engagement with others, just the constant laser vision to the screen. I get it. It's awkward going to and fro if we happen to be walking alone. So to combat this, we slip on our headphones or scroll through our news feeds during those seemingly agonizing couple minutes of solitude.
Yet, when we get to class, we don't engage either. We're in our own world until the professor starts lecturing. When class is over, we strap in those ear buds once again and repeat until the day is done.
Or at lunch, when a group of friends are gathered yet conversation ceases to unfold because everyone is texting or on Instagram; meanwhile, a live person is sitting right in front of them. This frankly rude disposition is severely inhibiting our interpersonal skills, to say the least.
It's this kind of behavior that leaves us feeling socially detached. We come across as extremely unapproachable when we aren't looking up and interacting with the average passerby. How do you think this affects people battling depression, anxiety or those even at risk for suicide?
There are so many people who are silently crying out for human interaction. A simple gesture can go a long way, leading someone out of a mentally crippling rabbit hole. I know when I'm having a bad day and a random person asks how I'm doing or wants to engage in casual conversation, I feel so much better.
It lifts spirits, or at least it does for me, when we can smile at a stranger and even earn a smile back. Or when someone utters a simple, "Hey, how are ya?" to me when I'm on my way to lunch. It's that effortless acknowledgement we give to those around us that connects us in a subconscious way.
There's no need for scientific studies or data to prove that attentive and genuine listening and response improves our overall mood and well-being. We are unified by our humanity, and basic interaction is the basis for this fact.
Let's take a vow to rid ourselves from the crutch of our cell phones. Lift your eyes and soak up your surroundings. What you say and do affects someone every single day, even the lack thereof. So be aware. Be present.