Are you tuned in or tuned out?

Image result for grocery shopping and listening to music

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.

Image result for biking and listening to music

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.

Image result for youth headphones on at food store


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.


Image result for running and listening to music

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.

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.


Image result for meditation  Image result for meditation in forest

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!



2019-01-26T09:13:29-04:00July 28th, 2018|

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  1. Irene Doniger August 4, 2018 at 11:54 AM - Reply

    Loneliness is now an epidemic. While digital connection can be a help, there is nothing like personal connection. “Talking groups” are now being established between younger folks and seniors and the engagement in life of both is dramatically increasing.
    I do join some of the internet laughter clubs and they are helpful. Nothing like going to an in person experience. I whole hardheartedly second Jeffrey and Teena’s posts. Getting involved as a laughter leader saved my life and changed it radically 18 years ago.

  2. Teena Miller July 31, 2018 at 12:54 AM - Reply

    I have been experiencing the same public social interactions or lack of engagement for quite some time. It happens in public not always in family functions or attending public events. I, myself wonder whether the lack of social connection is intentional or simply a moment in time of social isolation in a very turbulent world.
    Speaking only for myself it is definitely NOT my desire for isolation nor lack of engagement. I have made the choice to engage, to be socially acailable while traveling to and fro. It is my choice to acknowledge those around me in social settings. I chose to NOT be socially isolated.
    Statistics today point to the suicide rates increasing, to mental health illness numbers increasing. I make the choice to engage, to reach out. Even tapping the person with ear buds in- reminding them to be cautious and aware of their surroundings while traveling and then point to their ear buds.
    I have made the choice to Smile at others to see their Smiles and to Laugh with others, even total strangers on planes and buses- that is me.
    I do not encourage isolation and in my own style and manner encourage all to think, Smile at, and warmly include others. What the public chooses to do with my acknowledgements is entirely their choice.
    You wrote an excellent article Alexa and I applaud your big caring heart.
    Warmly, Sister to Sister in Laughter.

  3. Jeffrey July 30, 2018 at 8:42 PM - Reply

    Thank you for this message, Alexa. The importance of face-to-face contact, with inherent considerations for aspects like “personal space”, and observations like: pupil contraction, perspiration, “glistening in the eye”, vocal inflection, etc. – point out the value of Laughter Club “in-the-flesh”, and the limitations inherent in any kind of electronic/digital interface (such as “Laughter on the Phone” and “Skype Laughter Clubs”). Electronic-interface laughter experiences may have virtues (just like drinking “Tang” or “Gatorade” may provide a few select nutrients), but they can’t compare to laughing in the physical presence of other human beings (or drinking fresh-squeezed orange juice from organically grown fresh fruit). Perhaps this explains why Yours Truly has no interest in promoting digital laughter clubs (via Phone, Skype, etc.), while I am (enthusiastically) eager to have there be more social laughter clubs, with real live participants, worldwide.