Loneliness on BART

By | Sunday, August 20, 2023 Leave a Comment

Riding home on BART last night I felt so lonely. Everyone on the train was somewhere else. Most people had some kind of earbuds or headphones on, and almost everyone was looking at their cell phones.

I was listening to music on my phone with my earbuds and really rather enjoying it. But then a person sat down next to me, and I realized that they weren't really there. It wasn't just, "sitting next to someone I don't know"; it was sitting next to someone that wasn't sitting next to me at all.

So, I took out my earbuds and put away my phone. I wanted to connect in even the most trivial of ways.

I noticed another man, of about my age, on the train. He didn't have anything on his ears, nor was he holding a phone. He was behind me, so I had to turn pretty obviously to look at him. He didn't look back. I wanted to signal to him in some way that we were kind of kindred spirits, but, of course, we were strangers on a train, and I was a stranger craning around to look at him.

I thought about when the Sony Walkman came out. The "older generation" decried it as the end to sociability. Perhaps it was the first drop in the bucket, the first chip in the glass, the first step on the journey to isolation.

The difference is that now many of the people on the train probably are being social - it is likely that they are on their phones using social media or doing email. They're just not being social with those humans around them. They aren't isolated from those nearby by music on a Walkman, they are somewhere else, with someone else, as I sat alone on the train.

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