Last week, while I was watching The Daily Show on Comedy Networks, I saw a commercial that was quite different from what we usually see. A woman was recording a message on her voicemail, saying that she was not available that day and gave instructions to callers to either leave a message or call her other colleague. The camera zooms out and we see her in her kitchen. She hangs up and almost burst into tears. Then we see a bold line appear, "Everyday, 500,000 Canadians miss work due to a form of mental illness." A curious as I was, I searched and realized that there is a "Let's talk" campaign and in Canada, it is actually a serious problem. The sad part is not only this but that it became a serious problem only when loss of capital is calculated to be enormous. "With 500,000 Canadians missing work each day because of a mental illness, the impact in lost labour -market participation was an estimated $20.7 billion in 2012 alone."
It's the age of loneliness. People do not die from plague anymore but dozens of mental illness, especially in the west are plaguing people. It is becoming more and more difficult for people to communicate with each other, not only verbally but by looking and smiling at each other. I was talking to an American friend of mine in Berlin who's been living there for the past 5 years. She told me that one of the things that she learned there about Germans, was that when she walked in the street, if there were people in their balcony, she should NOT look at them because then she would be invading their private space, "so I look straight ahead," she said. Another instance came from my uncle who lives in Norway and told me that one out of four Norwegians take pills for mental illness, the most important of which is a result of lack of talking.
There are a few commercials and projects that deal with people's issues with human contacts and how they have changed in our times with the ubiquity of smartphones and social media. I do not think that we should stop using them cuz that is retrograde. I just think we have to know HOW to use them in order to avoid sad consequences of loneliness, loss of eye contact and actually talking to each other.
Since last September, I've been spending a lot of my time working and studying at home with no real human contacts except with my classmates in class and people I see in gallery openings. I can see that when I go out after a while, I become excited to see people but sometimes became upset that most people are playing/working with their smartphones and are so aware of keeping their distance from each other.
A few months ago, I was introduced to someone in a gallery and while I was talking, the girl just pushed me away from her and said that she needed her space because she had a bubble around herself. I was so shocked at that moment and became doubtful about my physical distance from people. As soon as I left there, I called my closest friend and asked her if she thought I stood too close to people when I talked to them. She thought for a few seconds and as surprised as she was at my unanticipated question, said, "No, why do you ask this?" I told her the story and said, "I guess people here are very outright with saying how they feel." But it was not about being outright, she thought it was rude, "I wouldn't push someone if I feel they're too close, I would step back myself; besides, I don't think you stand too close to people. This is an extreme encounter and it's the first time someone tells you this, so don't worry." But then, I could not stop thinking about this. I even thought it could be because of a cultural difference but again, I lived in different countries west and east, and it never happened to me.
I found these videos interesting, so I just share them here. I just wish that we become closer to each other, look at people, exchange smiles, feel at ease to start a conversation in public transport, and less concerned with our physical space in 2014.