3 Things that now annoy me about home
It may be that case that I have been on the road to long, and that the world used to live in works at a different pace than I am used to; or it may be the case that I just didn’t notice a lot of the flaws in our society before spending this past year in South America. But after my week of reverse culture shock in Chicago, I noticed that there are a lot of things that get on my nerves about back home. These are my three biggest pet peeves from life in North America:
1) Cell phone use / Ipod use
The truth is that the overuse of cell phones has always been something that bothered me. But I’m not sure if things have
changed so drastically since the last time I stepped foot in North America 10 months ago, or if it’s just something I never really noticed as much, but the use of cell phones for texting, facebook, twitter, etc. has become a social nightmare retracting people back from face-to-face conversations and instead leading them towards over-stimulated multi-person conversations. I also noticed that a lot of people stand and pretend to have conversations while they keep their Ipods blaring in one of their ears. The other day, I sat in a bar looking around me at a world that confused my every notion. I stood and watched as people would talk to each other as one of the participants, or both, continued on with another conversation with someone else on their cell phone.
At first I watched a conversation between a guy and a girl. The girl talked away into one ear as the guy texted away with a smile on his face occasionally looking up from the glare on his screen at the girl he was supposed to be talking to and “treated” her with a smile. At first, I was sure the point was going to be made by the girl “are you in this conversation talking to me? Or do you not care?” But instead what happened was when the conversation hit a dull point she too pulled out here phone to start a new conversation. I was shocked. I mean this is the equivalent to sitting at a table and having two or three separate conversations with different people at the same time. How can you possibly devote a respectful amount of energy and attention to this many conversations? I think that maybe people have let their social skills slip so far that it’s to the point that anytime a conversation hits a mute point they feel the need for other stimulation. Or maybe it’s that they hit a point of awkward silence, and they hid themselves behind the screens of their machines to protect them from this uncomfortable moment. Maybe I am just starting to get old and separated from the use of electronics, but I still can’t understand how anyone would bother carrying on a conversation with someone far away when someone else is right there at their side. Shouldn’t it be those people present who matter the most?
I watched on trains, in the streets, and even in museums where people had some sort of wireless cell phone device strapped tightly to their ears as if they were terrified that they were going to miss something in the world. I understand that the world of communication is important and drives a lot of things. But would it kill people to set down their phones and spend a little time free of its demand?
Social networks such as twitter and facebook, and technological features like texting were made to trying to bring people closer together, and if used properly can be very affective. But, instead it seems that an overwhelming majority of people have begun overusing these applications which has severely distracted people from the reality that presents itself right in front of their faces.
I wrote an article called “Traveling Green in Brown Countries” a little while ago, exalting my own country for how green its natural environment was while demonizing certain “less developed” countries for the obvious presence of trash and rubbish everywhere. However, on my trip back to North America I found myself constantly stating how badly people waste products and material, and don’t bother recycling or re-using at all.
The problem was noticeable instantly as soon as I stepped into the airport. I walked into the washroom to use the toilet, and I was confronted by a strange new machine that had attached itself to the backside of my toilet. I tempered my initial excitement of being able to flush toilet paper in order to try to understand this machine. I soon found out that this was a plastic toilet seat cover that rotated when you click a button, thus avoiding the traumatic incident of having to sit somewhere, bare-bottomed, where someone else has sat. “Oh, the emotional tragedy that would cause!” What an absolutely absurd over use of a product. If everyone averaged one use a day, a figure way below average, and everyone in the world used this technology. We would end up with one billion baseball-sized balls of plastic everyday thrown into the landfills.
It wasn’t just the toilets where I noticed waste, it seemed to be everywhere. People handing out plastic cutlery, wrapping just about anything you can name in plastic in order to “protect” people from germs that might exist in the air. To me it all began to feel a little bit overdone, and a bit ridiculous. Although, yes, we do a better job of keeping the rubbish off the streets and parks, and into the trash bins, we do a god awful job of reducing the amount of waste that goes into our landfills increases our impact and our widens our ecological footprint.
I think this is probably something that I was once guilty of as well, and maybe I am still guilty of this to a certain extent.
But the amount of products consumed by North Americans in absolutely incredible. And the amount of “stuff” that people have in North America boggles my mind. I’m not sure whether it’s the high levels of advertisement to blame, or something deeply ingrained in the social psyche that has set a trigger for a need of “stuff,” but something is wrong.
I can’t begin to count how many times I heard kids and adults alike shout out “oh, I want that” or “I am gonna get one of those” when presented with something for consumption in front of them. It seems that we have been so spoiled in our
lives that we no longer have the control to step back and think if we really need something, and if it is something we are really going to put that something to good use. Whether it’s the huge portions of food which often get tossed away or even eating when were not hungry because something looks good, we consume well beyond our need or capacity.
Regardless of the reasons why we do so, we over consume products at a level that would be incomprehensible to most people in the world. And as silly as it may sound it almost seems as though the more we consume the more that we have a need to fill an empty space within ourselves. What are we trying to fill through consumption? Maybe we consume to try to fill the vacancies felt in other aspects of our lives? Or maybe we consume to try to fill the social void left by lack of face-to-face verbal conversation.