I am frustrated. We’re all frustrated. And sad. And angry. And feeling so painfully helpless. We point our angry, helpless finger at seemingly responsible aspects of our society: Gun legislation, mental health issues, and violence in the media. We point a finger and place blame, all the while neglecting to notice the bigger issue, the one in which we are all responsible and can all make an impact – the need to foster and heal our own relationships.
We are losing our ability to make profound and important connections, even with those we love most. Most concerningly, with the youngest members of our society - children. Where does this void lead them? Isolation, depression, acting out? And in some sad situations, it has the ability to lead to extreme behaviors as well. This may not mean picking up a gun…but it might mean finding ways to “connect” that involve illicit drugs, or joining fringe groups that fill a missing sense of belonging. It may mean suicidal behaviors.
We see children of all ages detached from their families – playing on handheld devices of various forms. Parents, grandparents, and other caregivers do the same as they text and connect with others while their children shout, “Watch me! Watch me!” And these children get older, having never fully adopted healthy skills of social interaction. Their fractured ability to connect is evident as they fail to interact with their peers – often texting in lieu of face to face interactions. I fail to see any upside to this.
Are we – collectively - raising a generation of detached children? A generation who are profoundly more detached that any previous one due to our behaviors and choices. “I don’t have kids” you say. But no doubt you grew up making eye contact with people other than your parents. You still do this today, though probably not as routinely, because you learned how. We all need to get back to this. We all have a stake in the game when we too are at risk of experiencing violent or deadly behaviors.
An FBI study of shooter incidents in the United States from 2000 – 2013 shows an alarming trend of an increased frequency of such incidents. What else has changed drastically in that time period? Not gun ownership, not mental health issues. What has changed is our use of and reliance on social media. In fact it has grown with exponential force.
As a society we need to bring change. None of us can excuse our own behavior when it involves using our smart phone while in the company of others. Whether we know the people we are with or not. We must realize that we are a part of the problem and a part of the solution. Failing to do so is damaging the fabric of our society, and with each new act of violence, we feel our safety compromised, and the rug being ripped out from underneath us a bit more. We must connect.