Imagine a bustling town or city centre, with people everywhere. Overhead, there could be the clearest, bluest skies with the warmest sun beating down on everyone’s necks, or it could be pouring down with rain, grey clouds covering the sky above. Guaranteed, at least 95% of the people around will have a phone glued to their hand, and their eyes in turn will be glued to the screen.
We’re losing the ability to appreciate what and who is around us.
Life has become being obsessed with how many likes we get on the Instagram selfie we posted that morning; the pictures we post that make our lives seem as though we have it all together. We’ve become so worried about whether or not people are going to react to our Facebook posts, or who will retweet our tweets on Twitter. Yes, living in a digital era brings with it so many advantages and benefits. Simultaneously, it drains us of our ability to interact with each other for real.
What happened to having honest and open conversations over a cup of tea or coffee in café? What happened to endless summer days in the park with your best mates where all you had was one phone between you playing out some decent tunes while you all sat and talked and laughed? What happened to just being able to go and talk to someone without having to message them first to find out if they’re free or not?
“I was on the London Underground not too long ago and observing the people around me. It shocked me that almost all the other passengers were staring down at their screens, oblivious to what was happening around them and only glancing up to see what station the Tube had stopped at. And I wondered how this was possible because I looked at my phone and I didn’t get reception, let alone 4G whilst whizzing around beneath the busy Capital City.” Everyone was looking down, rather than looking up. Looking up and seeing the people surrounding them. You could be so engrossed in your phone on a train one day that you may miss the opportunity to look up and meet a new friend, or the person you end up falling deeply and madly in love with.
This is why we should all look up.
Put that phone away, just for five minutes. For five minutes, look up and take in what’s around you. Notice the colour of the building you’re walking past, notice that sea-gull pulling food out of a bin, and notice what the weather is doing. More importantly, look at who is around you and allow your curiosity to take over. That man walking past in a business suit – wonder what his job is? The mother with children around her – ask yourself what she had for breakfast that morning? Create stories in your mind for the people around you – it’s much more fun and so much more interesting than scrolling through Facebook. People watching is a fantastically fun thing to do.
We also think that liking someone’s Instagram photo, or reacting to their Facebook post is being kind these days. No – kindness is so much more than that. Kindness and being kind are important and valuable. A simple “hello” can make someone’s entire day, while asking how someone is and genuinely wanting to know the answer can mean a lot to a person. “Looking back on that same day on the Underground in London, I later sat on the Tube back to Paddington Station and had a bit of a cry (in public, yes – it was a rough day). Not one person bothered to ask me if I was okay, not that was what I wanted, but if you see someone crying, you’re bound to feel concerned or curious, right? It reminded me of a time when I was in Italy and, again, having a quiet cry on the train – about five Italian people stopped to offer me comfort or support. Whether this is just a display of our typical British awkwardness, compared to the Italian’s sometimes overly openness, I don’t know.”
When you get home today – whether that’s to your housemates, to your family, to the one you love – talk to them, ask them how their day was, or cook dinner together. Do something that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a screen, do something that doesn’t mean you’re glued to your individual screens rather than focussing on who is there in that room with you.
If you do one thing today – look up. Look up and smile; smile at the world around you and fall in love with the world around you. Smile at someone, and say hello. Be the reason someone smiles today. As lead singer of The Script, Danny O’Donoghue says, “Never judge someone. Especially if you don’t know them because you don’t know what they’re going through; for all you know, what you say could be the last thing they hear before they decide they’ve had enough.”