Speak Your Piece: 2014 Is Looking Up

The New Year is a time for optimism, but many of us are walking around with our heads hanging down – not from despair but from obsession with our smart phones. Let’s resolve to improve our manners this year and look opportunity, and our neighbors, straight in the eye.

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Cartoon via the New Yorker

America needs to look up.

So do hometowns everywhere.

We have become a society of down-lookers, thanks to the little devices that occupy our hands.

While the cell phone is the greatest gadget to be invented in the past century, it also has led our eyes to fall downward. Our necks and backs have responded accordingly. Posture has slumped.

But more than anything, we are missing what’s before us — the eyes of children, the elderly, those in need and those trying so desperately to communicate with us.

Only two decades ago, cellular telephones were few. Most were bag phones, so nobody carried them as they walked, or shopped, or sat in funeral services, or took naps.

A recent survey of people between 18 and 40 showed that most busy Americans can’t even sleep through the night without checking their cell phones at least once.

And, what’s so important that can’t wait until morning:

Facebook or Twitter.

That’s what most of them said.

In his pre-technology age book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie gave tips on how to improve your standing with others.

His basic premise, penned in 1936, started with this rule: “Keep your chin held high when you enter a room or meet other people. 

“Survey the territory. See who’s there. Take note of something interesting about them. 

“Then start a conversation — about the other person, or something of mutual interest. Don’t tell others about you. That will come with friendship.”

Carnegie’s concepts have been brushed aside in today’s world as we thumb through status updates, games, text messages, news and sports posts and other abbreviated, misspelled, blunt groanings.

Those who post most often on social media are consumed with themselves, their aches and pains, ill-informed political or religious views and put-downs of other human beings. 

You can actually walk into a restaurant, see people you know and never speak to them because they — and you — are engaged in looking down at the lifeless mind-zapping devices found in everyone’s palm.

So, before we fix all the political, entertainment, religious and occupational dysfunctions in life, how about we take a stab at improving our manners?

It can start by taming our cell phones and looking up toward the opportunities that await us.

Maybe, on some strange occasion, we might actually turn off the little beasts that have become society’s No. 1 hindrance to being good neighbors.

After all, that’s the part of life that we should be enjoying the most.

Rudy Taylor is publisher of the Prairie Star, Labette Avenue and Montgomery County Chronicle newspapers in southeast Kansas.

 

 

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