The country goes by quickly through the driver’s side window at 70 MPH. Headlights and neon a streaking dissonant cacophony of notes in nighttime’s orchestral performance. Each straining to be seen and heard above all the others without regard for harmony. A blur of trees, plains, mountains, roadside restaurants, cars, and the people inside. No time to focus on anything or anyone for more than brief second, if that. I learned that lesson almost thirty years ago when I drove from New Jersey to California for law school. Staring out at the Pacific from the beaches in Malibu upon arrival allowed ample opportunity to look forward in anticipation of friendships to be made, experiences to come, and hopes to be fulfilled.
Life goes by even more quickly through a 4 inch smartphone screen. Headlights replaced by opinions. Trees replaced by photos of children in celebration, ribs on the grill, abandoned pets in distress, and shoes to be purchased. Roadside attractions replaced by corporate offers, suggested recipes, recaps of last night’s hot date, raves about Dorito’s great new flavor, and triumphs over vacation packing and lawn care challenges. One another’s cares, hobbies, causes, victories, and failures fly by in a blur of likes and rants that make the headlights and neon at 70 virtually stand still.
Online diaries can’t be read during a screen refresh or pull down update. The vortex of social media values quantity and snappy pontification over meaningful communication as each of us turns the dial of our bullhorns up to 11 lest we be ignored over the din. Forgotten at the bottom of the screen. Hoping to be buoyed by a like to a post but knowing that few took the time to read it. Have we come to a point where the more we share, the less we care? Are we losing compassion to the scroll or has it already been lost? Can we care and meaningfully engage at the speed of social media?
I recently had the occasion to stare out at the Atlantic from the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. A symbolic bookend to those days gazing over the Pacific, though lacking the past’s anticipation of friendships to be made. Lacking anticipation of friendships became liking antics and posts by friends already made.
And I even read almost every one.