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Pixelated Humanity

January 6, 2011

Trains are a fascinating place to observe humanity, its friendliness, rudeness, impatience and kindness. But what I witnessed a few weeks ago was just very saddening.

An old man and his dog boarded the train to Brighton and the dog, being very cute and in seeming dire need of petting, attracted attention from two young teenage girls and two early twenties-looking women. So the man, taking his cue from Charlie (the dog) starts telling the girls about him (Charlie).  But after finding out his dog’s name, they lost interest in what the old man was saying, becoming even more unresponsive when he attempted to continue the conversation and find out what they were off to Brighton for.

Now, he wasn’t being a sleazy old man, he was simply trying to have a conversation. Evidently he was still in the time when talking on public transport wasn’t such a social faux pas, and there wasn’t the fear of being hunted down as a paedophile for being polite. It got to the point that of the older females, one stared straight ahead and the other made a call on her mobile in an effort to dissuade him from continuing.

I was sitting down the carriage and it was a really sad scene to watch unfold. It highlighted not only the inherently selfish traits people have, but the demise of something as simple as a pleasant conversation with a stranger. These girls were delighted to coo and fuss over his dog because it suited them (and to be fair Charlie wasn’t putting up much of a fight) but an old man talking to them was so far beyond their comfort zone, they opted to be rude and ignore him.

At the other end of the scale was the woman on the Glasgow to Irvine train. It was more rammed than a tube carriage at rush hour and she whinged at me to move, move, move my large and very heavy case. Exactly where she would have liked me to put it in the .5 of a inch that was spare I have no idea, but my suggestion was far from polite. I blame the lack of tea.

The fact many of us would rather end up with thumb strain through frantically tweeting people than have a physical conversation with someone (a non-crazy) who is two feet away is really disheartening.  I called this post pixelated humanity because that’s what I feel is happening to our human connections. We’ve changed the way we communicate, which in itself is no great problem, but the development of virtual communication has left us virtually unable to empathise and relate in a real environment.

Caught between a rock and a hard drive endeavouring  to keep up to speed with technology whilst trying to remember to how to hold a decent conversation in a non-virtual world.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2011 9:47 am

    I really like that term you’ve used “pixelated humanity”. It’s something I think a lot about, as I have such a love of all things digital, but I worry that it’s affecting my ability to interact face to face. I see it a lot on the bus to work each morning. The same people get on every day, but we all sit there in our own little bubble (including me) distracting ourselves with fones and ipods and little machines. However, I don’t think this is something new. I think part of the problem is we now have to interact with far more people everyday than we ever did. If you think back to pre-industrial times, most people would only know maybe a 100 people in their whole lives. Maybe it’s part of our natural state to be hostile to strangers, especially if they’re in your face as they are on public transport. I saw this book on Amazon which kinda discusses that whole thing:

  2. Anne Wilson permalink
    January 7, 2011 11:16 am

    I personally love conversations with fellow doggy owners or fans of my little dog on public transport or even on the street.
    The only reason I would ever use the mobile excuse is if the person talking to me was creepy or I genuinely didn’t feel well enough to talk to anyone but this bunch actually initiated the communication!
    I can, however, give you an example of positive public transport communication: I was on a very busy London to Havant train, my bad leg was killing me to the point of not being able to bend it as I’d been walking all day. I was lucky enough to get a seat in one of those big 3 on 3 seats, so plenty of room for my leg. As the train filled up a lady sat down across from me and, noticing my leg, put her shopping bags on the seats beside her and me to stop anyone sitting there and allow me and my stupid leg space. She then took all the evil glares from other commuters on herself instead of blaming me, saying I probably got enough of that crap on a daily basis and that most would just have ignored the leg, but there’s little to be done about bags on seats!
    So the polite, helpful people fight the ignorant rude masses. I love this lady!

  3. chris Whitehouse permalink
    January 10, 2011 9:09 pm

    I hope the irony of posting this online isn’t lost on you Sara ;o)

    • January 10, 2011 9:21 pm

      Haha, no it’s not! It did cross my mind as I hit the publish button! 😀

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