A few weeks ago, I was riding BART from San Francisco to the East Bay during rush hour when a young man who differed from me by generation and ethnicity took the seat next to mine.

I set aside my Time magazine and said to him, “How’s your day going?” And with that, we embarked on a 40-minute conversation, him talking and me mostly listening. I did not take this as, “Oh, here we go again. The man is dominating the conversation,” but rather as an opportunity to give him the benefit of my attention and my ability to listen.

He told me that instead of going to college, he had pursued an apprenticeship and now had a high-paying construction job. He told me he was divorced and still not happy about that. He said his wife complained that he never listened to her. He said he told her that he’d been busy providing for her and their daughter and that when he got home he was tired.

He was beginning to realize that if he’d done things differently, he might still be married. Now he was worried that he may be making the same mistake with his new girlfriend. The more he revealed, the more I listened, the more he shared.

My first point here is to remind us that most of our fellow humans are starved for someone’s attention, to feel seen and heard, if only for a short BART ride.

My second point is that we need more face time with real people and less screen time with our devices. Facebook is not necessarily your friend. Some studies show that the more people use it, the more likely they are to become depressed. Emojis can never supplant the beating heart of human emotion.

I’m reminded of what Eric Hoffer once said, “You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.” And what we really need, especially now, is one warm human to listen to our story. It’s the perfect gift for both of us.

With a Perspective, I’m Rosie Sorenson.

Rosie Sorenson is a former psychotherapist and author living in the East Bay.

Is Anybody Listening? 18 December,2016Amanda Font
  • Hillary Clintub

    Doesn’t Apple make a listening device? Siri, or something like that? In fact I heard they made a whole movie about it a year or two ago. Amazing what technology can do nowadays.

  • Jay Thompson

    Enjoyed Ms. Sorenson’s perspective. A great message especially for this time of year.

  • jyg

    Thank you for caring for someone where he was at, instead of demanding he first meet some expectation. I get the feeling it wasn’t a common experience for him. I get the feeling it’s not a common experience for most of us.

  • Long

    I wonder the man’s life would be better off simply after having a 40-min conversation with a stranger on BART.

    I don’t think we should blame Facebook or other technologies for our inability to communicate with our beloved ones and friends. Social media rose because of our poor ability to communicate our true selves and social media had failed to amend that problem.

    This simple reason for the man’s problem is that he always has an excuse of not doing a simple right thing, spending “peaceful time” with your beloved one, not just time. If you always dominate the conversation, who want to be your audience forever? If being tired can be a reason, he does not even know why he had failed.

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