The More Connected We Are the Less Connected We Become
– a 600-word essay on human behaviour at a theme park:
Excuse me, sorry, just trying to get through, oops – sorry…
These were the first words I mumbled at the start of a recent family vacation at Universal Studios Orlando. Being Canadian, and raised by a loving mother and father, who could be stern when necessary, I was always reminded about common courtesy. It seems that all my buddies’ parents believed the same and made sure courtesy was normal behaviour for all the teenage hooligans. And yet, at the theme park, it didn’t feel normal when I was the only one who was moving out of the way or saying, “excuse me.”
I am an inch and a bit over 6 feet and still tipping the Toledoes at 250. You can see me coming.
Oh wait, you can’t see me coming when your head is buried in your phone. And as I looked around at so many of the park visitors, phone in front was clearly the norm. So much for conversation and enjoying the view.
No, instead I see people taking more than one selfie to capture that one great shot. Who am I to judge, but those taking the selfie are probably the only one going to look at that pic unless it is posted to Instagram?
Some ten years ago when I was last at a theme park with our family of four, people were courteous as we shared the special photo spots that Disney kindly identified for guests. This trip, people would just stop anywhere and start clicking their phones and then start posting to social media. What happened? Where has our civility and genuine connectedness gone? Apparently, civility is stored “in the cloud” somewhere. And our genuine connectedness has been lopped off and replaced with selfie sticks and fancy phone covers.
Now, it would be incredibly hypocritical of me to claim I never used my phone for pictures. I am not holier than thou, but I used my phone when it was appropriate to take pictures. I did not stop the human highway that seemed to stroll endlessly in every Disney or Universal park. I’d like to think that I was a stereotypically polite Canadian, just like my folks taught me to be.
Alas, I am a slow learner. There was a breaking point when I lost my temper on the way to a dinner reservation. I decided to steamroll anyone in my path. The last time I ran someone over was about 30 years ago in a rugby match. I did not want to conduct myself this way just to be a thug. Nope, I was frustrated that the exceptionally connected community where everyone has a phone, turned into a community of “me, myself, and I.” Actually, no one was hurt, and I was very careful not to put anyone in a distressing situation. Lest you judge me, think of yourself in a situation when people have their heads buried in a phone, and as they walk toward you, they collide with barely a grunt. I am sure you just wanted to scream “Hey; I’m right here! Can’t you see me?!”
For those who wish to live vicariously through my actions, consider yourself invited.
Reality set back in upon my return home. I mellowed because of the terrific family time we had on the rides and being together. Now, as I have a chance to bounce people with their heads buried in a device, I choose to listen to my parents’ words and simply say “excuse me” and I move out of the way. I’ll connect with words. And I am fine with that. Thanks Mom and Dad.
– Tim Kist