by Karen J Mossman
Many years ago I worked in an afternoon as a Messenger, which meant delivering and picking up post from various floors in the building.
There was a guy called Colin, who one day said to me, ‘People never sit and do nothing any more.’
We were having a break between rounds and sitting at the table in the post room. He said, ‘People don’t seem to just sit and reflect. They have to be doing something and if they’re not, they call it boredom. They don’t want to hear the silence around them.’
It was the days before social networking and the internet was still in its infancy. I remember thinking at the time, how true that was and how we are frightened of silence. I watched him stare into space, alone with his thoughts and in the back ground was the buzz of a busy office. So I sat quietly with him. It felt good.
Today with the advent of the multi-purpose mobile phone, it is even more relevant. They aren’t just phones anymore, they are for listening to music, social media, playing games, and taking photographs. I see people in the streets and if they are not talking on the phone, they have ear plugs in listening to music.
I tried that once, ear buds were so popular. Walking the dog felt strange and I hated it and took them out.
The music of life is so much more interesting. The sound of cars rumbling by, the thump of music through open windows, the roar of a passing motor bike, the exhaust of a boy racer saying ‘look at me’. Voices of women gossiping on corners and the low rumble of men passing the time of day. Even the sounds of distant sirens, a cat on the hunt or a dog barking is music. Or simply the breeze in your ears and the fluttering of the Autumnal leaves as they crinkle and fall.
One day I was mesmerised by a can of coke clattering down the road in the wind. The clang and rattle was loud as it rolled and bounced along. It got quite a far down the road until a car and flattened it. It amused me.
I was reading Facebook and came across ‘If This Video Doesn’t Make You Put Your Phone Down, Nothing Probably Will‘. It’s a sort of rap by Prince Ea and it talked about iPhones, and iPads and how there is no we in it, just and an I. It told how social networking is actually anti social networking. I listened to his slow tuneful rap about missing important things in life. Strong images passed through the screen, a couple in bed, she resting her head romantically on his chest and he reading his phone. in the darkness. Two people having dinner, one watching silently as the other looked at their screen. A man alone in an office as the night lights twinkling outside and he staring at his computer screen. Dogs vying for someone’s attention, but everyone were too busy checking into Facebook.
It struck a chord with me. How many times do I stare into my phone screen? I originally joined Facebook on my computer, then I could get it on my phone and then I could get notifications too, and my phone was constantly lightening up luring me to it.
I loved Facebook, it enabled me to keep in touch with family and see photos of children growing up. I’ve made some wonderful friends and found my solitary hobby of cross stitching is shared by many others.
But it was taking over my life, I was addicted. As soon as a television programme came to a break, I’d check my phone. First thing in the morning, I was on my phone, constantly all day and picking it up to find out what others were doing. My head full of images and words that were not mine. Precious moments were lost as I was running out of time to do things that were just for me.
So I stopped. I stopped having other people’s lives in my head. I turned off notifications and I put my phone away. Suddenly I felt free. I’m having quiet moments of reflection, too. I sit with a cup of tea staring out of the window alone with my thoughts and it was all right. Suddenly I can work through writing ideas again. In the morning I can write, or cross stitch instead of wasting an hour staring at my phone.
I’m finding the person I used to be, the one before Facebook and my world.
It is all right to be silent, to not have the radio or television constantly blaring. It’s actually quite nice to read a book in complete silence absorbing the words and conjuring up images. It’s all right to occasionally be bored as well. It’s all right to live your own life at your own pace and just be.