I was shopping at my local supermarket a few days ago and noticed this young man (in his 20’s, a college student) at the deli counter, waiting for a sandwich order. He was cool looking and handsome, wearing his rose-colored sunglasses . He was also bopping along to the music playing through his ear buds and totally inattentive to others around him. No interaction with the employees or fellow shoppers. No acknowledgments, recognition or friendly interactions. Just him in his own little world. As he grabbed his sandwich and headed to the register, I lined up behind him, also ready to leave the store.
Continuing to move to the beat, he piled his grocery items onto the conveyor belt, paid for and then loaded his purchases into his backpack. He casually left his shopping basket at my feet, as I approached to pay for my groceries. I continued to watch him outside, as he got onto his bicycle (still head bobbing to the music) and pedaled away. Very dangerous because you cannot hear the traffic around you.
According to a 2011 study conducted by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, a cyclist’s response to auditory signals while listening to music with earbuds worsened significantly in 68 percent of cases. This means two out of every three who wear earbuds while cycling cannot hear sirens, automobiles honking or cars whizzing by them in traffic. https://www.active.com/cycling/articles/bikes-and-headphones-do-they-mix
That’s youth for you. I see it everywhere. People with their ear buds on, listening to music or podcasts, oblivious to world around them. I love music and no one can underestimate the power of music, how the music can pump you up and get you energized. However, it worries me to see so many people tuning out.
I also see this at the park and this saddens me because when surrounded by nature or visiting with nature, it’s so beneficial to slow down, breath and take in the sounds, smells and sights of being in a green space. Yet I realize that runners are about not slowing down and so I see plenty of runners with ear buds in the park. It’s not a good idea to wear them, especially if you are running alone. You cannot hear someone sneaking up behind you. You can get easily distracted. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/05/ask-a-best-doc-dont-run-with-headphones.html
Don’t get me started with cell phones…. I know how you can get addicted to devices and gadgets and how social media can suck up your time and energy. I have to limit my own time with internet, e mail and facebook. Still, I make a concerted effort to spend time outdoors and unplugged. We each can find strive to find the perfect balance. My daily laughter practice and my commitment to running weekly laughter clubs helps to keep me connected to others, in person.
As a Laughter Yoga teacher, I have seen the challenges that Middle Schoolers to University students face when socializing and interacting with others. Social workers at Penn State often share with me how students are communicating less face to face. A decade of using devices has changed how we communicate. At orientations at the beginning of the school year, they have more and more students seeking help or being directed to them. Young people are having difficulties making eye contact, having conversations and making new friends. They also mentioned increased rates of anxiety, depression and suicide.
As Laughter Yoga leaders and teachers, we have a big task ahead of us. I repeat myself by saying that every community, school, hospital and business should be offering Laughter Yoga sessions to bring people together and to encourage teamwork and communication. We build empathy and compassion, opening our eyes, ears and hearts. We continue to learn, grow and share. Dialogue is essential , action is imperative.
There is a time and place for tuning out, when you feel like you need a break, when you need privacy and time to yourself. We all need space and down time. This should be done in a safe setting.
However, don’t sabotage the time that you have to really tune in. Engage your receptors. We are social beings. Spread the good intentions. Smile and enjoy each day!