Are New Yorkers More Isolated Than Ever?
How can you be isolated in a city with millions of people? On trips to New York many years ago, I noticed how people seemed to be in their own little world. People looked down or straight ahead while sailing the sidewalks and dodging the taxis. You didn't see many smiles or laughter if at all. Everyone was rushing somewhere but no one knows where. Everyone just has to get across the street quickly. Everyone had to be ahead of you wherever that may be.
Photo by Adam Longfellow - From Hotel Gansevoort in New York City
Are things any different today?
Worse. Now everyone has mp3 players and cell phones. People have another barrier to being part of the society of millions of people that they pay so much to live amongst. We are more connected as we lose touch with humanity. We can take all of our Facebook friends with us as we walk down 8th Avenue. We can hang in a club line and read a Tweet about what the line is like thirty blocks north or three thousand miles west.
Photo by Adam Longfellow - Overlooking the Meatpacking District
Isolation in the Darkness of New York
I looked out a tenth story window of the Hotel Gansevoort the other night and watched the glow of tiny glowing lights moving across the sidewalks. I was reminded of the fireflies I used to watch at night once upon a time in my childhood. The Detroit Tigers softly playing to the symphony of radio announcer Ernie Harwells voice, just over the sounds of summer crickets and frogs. Children of Manhattan, living above the ground, finally have their own version of fireflies. The background symphony that I recall is instead now composed with traffic, horns, and sirens.
I watched as four shadows glided across an intersection from different directions. Arms extended and hugs were shared. The four shadows became one for a couple of warm seconds. I imagined the smiles and some laughter that I had missed on the faces of the tens of thousands of people that I wandered amongst that day. The larger shadow broke into four again and each turned on their small night lights that protect them from interaction. Four people came together and then went separate ways while they stayed on the same street corner. They chose to meet each other here and share the same puffs of car exhaust but spend emotional time elsewhere. They could poke a friend in person but instead they are poking someone far away. Perhaps they are now even texting the person who was with them earlier when they got the message to meet these people right here right now.
Somehow fireflies seemed to be having more fun being social.