I have often been accused of not being a realist. The one that sees the world through rose tinted lenses. The one who’s idealist perception of the world creates an image of naiveté and ignorance.
I have always resolutely denied these absurd accusations and have resolved to maintain my personal conviction and belief.
I have found warmth and comfort in my belief that humanity by definition is kindness and kindness suggests compassion and generosity.
Truth be told, I am not completely sure when the human race lost the ability to behave humanely. When did we lose the values of respect, charity, patience, tact, thoughtfulness, good intention, and compassion?
Indulge me for a few minutes dear reader as we stop, rewind, and reassess.
Let’s stop and review a few interesting statistics. 40% of South Africans have an active social media presence, with an estimated 36.5 million internet users in South Africa. A staggering 22 million smartphone users, with the age group 25 to 34 making up the largest portion of social media users and age group 18 to 24 a close second. The average daily time spent on the internet in South Africa is 9 hours and 22 mins. Looking back at 2010, these stats were still in its infancy. Even with our beautiful country hosting the FIFA world cup, internet users were around 12 million, less than half of what it is now.
Why, you may ask is this relevant? I find the implication fascinating. In the age of technology, all the values that give our lives meaning are at risk.
Looking back through the haze of time, it was cool for kids to play outdoors, fun to climb trees and throw a ball around. Respect was in the ease of which one helped an elderly lady safely cross the street. Charity was found around the dinner table with neighbors sharing a meal together. Patience was cultivated in traffic, where we enjoyed the ride rather than the rush to our destination. Tact and thoughtfulness were displayed in sparky banter between acquaintances where we thought before we spoke and were never rude or careless for fear of the recipients reaction or feeling. Good intent was evident in our ability to hold the door open for another and a simple thank you to those who provided a service. Compassion was in our DNA and driven by empathy as we listened with our eyes and smiled from our shoulders.
Reassessing our current reality, its clear that apathy has become the common theme. With everyone who is anyone tweeting, Facebooking and insta-gramming, it’s easy to overlook the glaringly obvious misguided adjustments to our basic human instinct. The devices and apps designed to connect us have now forced us further apart. We arrogantly condone our conduct, or lack thereof, by veiling our apathy with fear of involvement.
The bizarre irony of this is that we find it acceptable to stand off to the side while a colleague fights off an assailant, device in hand capturing every gripping moment. We delude ourselves with the rationale that this is the responsible thing to do, others need to see this. God forbid the encounter turn fatal, all things considered, we stayed out of harms way and responsibly chronicled the interaction for authorities.
Lets be real, we need to shrug off this misguided notion that Apathy is safer than Empathy. Turn the device around and call for help, better still aim the device and use it as a weapon.
Empathy sets us apart as humanity. It allows us the ability to sense others emotions and in doing so allows us to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. Empathy unites us as the beings we were created to be. Thinking, caring, feeling. Each of us have the innate ability to care and a simple “I can only imagine what you must be feeling,” makes a world of difference.
If the past few months are anything to go by, I’ve learned that the one thing we need the most is human connection. Connection not via internet waves or satellite streaming, but through the irreplaceable personal interactions that fuel our essential need. Unplug yourself, look up, there is so much to see.