Things may be looking up – but we’re all looking down

As I write this on an early morning Eurostar, newspaper talk is of green shoots. So are all the faces around me wreathed in happy smiles? Well, no. But that is because the ones that aren’t asleep are all feverishly gazing at their phones, Blackberries and laptops. Why feverishly? Because we have just emerged from that undersea world of communications blackout we call the Tunnel.

Stop at traffic lights, and you’ll see the passengers in the car alongside are looking down. If a meeting breaks for five minutes, colleagues will immediately check texts, emails and Facebook. Some will even make that a higher priority than a bathroom break. See what happens when an aircraft lands. Look at kids, teenagers, young adults, everyone. Look at spectators at the Test. Eyes down – even in a full house.

Just think how different things are from every previous moment of history, when our natural gregariousness led us to chat with the people around us. Now we’re preoccupied with communicating with people who aren’t there. Our thumbs are working nineteen to the dozen. Give us two generations and our thumbs will be longer than our fingers.

We are checking on what we can’t see – not what we can. We used to have a laugh with the person beside us. Now we Tweet it to our followers. We are here, but our minds are elsewhere.

Things may be looking up, but we are looking down. I worry about that. I’m a great enthusiast for bright eyes and a smile. With the eyes cast downwards and the mouth set in concentration,
I can’t see either. ‘Social Media’ – bit of a misnomer, isn’t it?