Y’know … times have changed since I was a child. (No sarcastic remarks from the peanut gallery, please 😄) I remember back in the day, my grandmother, who seemed beyond ancient to me at the time, but was younger then than I am now, would bring in her daily newspaper from the front porch and immediately open it to the obituary section to see if any of her friends had died in the past day or two. She lived in a small suburban town where pretty much everybody knew everybody else, and she worked at the only grocery store in town, so she knew more about more people than most. We used to laugh and make fun of her for her morning perusal of the obituaries with her first cup o’ coffee.
Fast forward 70 years … today most all of us have high-speed internet connections whereby we can get immediate breaking news updates as they happen, can send a message to a friend, co-worker or family member within seconds and receive a response within a few more seconds, and communications are almost instantaneous. So … we should be much better informed than back in the 1950s when television was in its pre-pubescent stage, radio in its dying throes, and the daily newspaper our main source for news … right? Right???
But … somewhere there is a disconnect. I think that maybe we’ve become so OVER-informed that it has overwhelmed us and we aren’t paying attention to the things our grandmothers prioritized. We are bombarded daily with news, political crappola, emails, videos, blogs, emails, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, emails, and more that we are on sensory overload. Being on sensory overload, being attuned 24/7 to what is happening thousands of miles away, perhaps we are missing what is happening right in our own backyard.
What, you ask, has led me to this bit of introspection? Death. No, not mine, silly! A few weeks ago, I learned that a friend had died … in 2020. How had I not noticed that she no longer commented on my blogs or my Facebook posts? Why didn’t anybody post about her death? Well, turns out they did, but … I was busy and didn’t notice the posts. Her name was Sylvia Wright. She was born and raised in Germany, married an American soldier and moved to the U.S. She worked for the same publishing company I did, and we became friends. I shall miss Sylvia, and I feel ashamed that … I didn’t even notice she was gone … for TWO YEARS! But wait … it doesn’t end there!
This week, another friend, Carol, died. This stunned me, because she was even younger than I … really kind of brings it home when you stop and think about it. I found about Carol’s death because my daughter happened to see a post about it on Facebook (Carol’s daughter and mine are friends). As I was searching for Carol’s obituary online, I came across one for … Homer … a family friend, more a friend of my daughter’s, but I do remember many fun times when she was dating Homer and he hung out at our house most of the time. I remember the time I came home from work to find them making a mess in the kitchen … they were trying to mash potatoes, but without cooking the potatoes first! (Obviously, I failed to teach my daughter basic culinary skills!) Homer died back in August, four months ago. When Chris came home from work, I asked her when she last heard from Homer, and she replied that it had “been a few months.” And then …
Granddaughter Natasha piped up and said, “Oh, that reminds me … I was looking at something online the other day and I saw an obituary for Phil who used to babysit me when I was little … he died in 2020!” Again, two years ago. Phil worked with my daughter back when she used to manage a convenience store, and he often watched Natasha until I got off work in the evenings. He taught her to fish and to play cards … he was a part of our lives.
Back in the day before “instant communications” via the Internet, we probably would have known of the deaths of all these people shortly after they happened. Back then, people called people, and those people called other people, and by word-of-mouth, everyone knew when someone died. Today, the information is put out on the internet with millions of other bytes of information, and … lost in the shuffle of all the other bytes of information. If you go looking, you will find it, but … if you don’t, you may find out two years later that someone who was once a close friend has died.
If a celebrity or political persona halfway across the globe sneezes, we are instantly made aware, but if someone in our own backyard dies, it passes beneath our radar. Rather like that old saying, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
I have a love/hate relationship with the Internet … there is much value in being able to stay in touch with friends & family, to be able to know the news almost “as it happens”, to be able to do my Christmas shopping without leaving the comfort of my home, and to make new friends through my blog. But there is also a downside. We are more isolated; we rely too heavily on information coming to us when perhaps we should be going in search of it. We have lost something, I think, of what makes us … human.