What’s wrong with everyone?
What is wrong with this world? It is the question I get most often from readers and viewers; even more so than “Are your eyes really two different colors?” The answer to the second question is yes. As to the first, that’s a bit more complicated. A good police detective would tell you when you are trying to solve a crime don’t overthink it. Often the most obvious answer is the answer. I’m a 54-year-old man and I’ve seen two big changes in my lifetime — the advance of technology and the abandonment of God. By the second I mean when it comes to faith more and more people check the box marked “none” when asked which religion they ascribe to. Many either don’t believe in God or if they do they give him about as much thought as, “I wonder how the cast of the original ‘Baywatch’ is doing these days?” So not much. Which is certainly their prerogative.
Perhaps they weren’t taken to church as kids growing up and even if their parents wanted to send them to Catholic school they couldn’t afford it, so the child was left in the wilderness that is society to sort things out for themselves. I know many applaud that approach and perhaps there’s some merit to it. I’m not here to tell you people who believe in God are good and those who don’t are bad. That would be stupid and wrong as there are plenty of good and bad on both sides of that fence. I would only point out that when people believe there will be a judge for their actions they tend to weigh them a bit more. Remove the judge from the courtroom and people act without worry of the consequences. Do I think the shooting in Vegas doesn’t happen if that nut job had attended 9 a.m. Mass in Reno faithfully? No I don’t. I’m just pointing out that at the same time fewer people believe in heaven the more I see the world going to hell. It could be completely unrelated or a coincidence but I thought it was worth pointing out.
I mentioned technology too. I don’t think your smartphone makes you a bad person either and I don’t expect us to go back to Mayberry to hang out with Andy and Aunt Bee but have you noticed how cold we have become since we placed those warm little devices at the center of our lives? The internet and social media allow us to communicate with a billion people if we choose to yet what do we see? People sitting at Applebee’s, not talking to each other, head down and thumbs busy typing away a message to someone who is not at the table. You want to scream across the restaurant, “Hey dummy if you want human contact LOOK UP there’s a person sitting three feet across from you.”
I’ll say something completely insane now and backed by absolutely no research or data. I think one of the reasons we have so much depression in this country (besides the pharmaceutical companies running endless commercials telling you you’re depressed and they have a pill for it) is social media which is quite unsocial. See if this describes what you see on your Facebook feed. Oh there’s my friend on another fabulous vacation. I can’t afford to go to Lake George for the weekend but there they are in Italy, again. Oh there’s another friend out to eat for the fourth time this week and I know this because they have taken photos of their very fancy food. I’m eating leftovers I just heated up in the microwave. Oh there’s my friend with their family and in every photo everyone looks amazingly happy. My family is kind of a mess right now. I’m not saying people shouldn’t share their lives but social media is often a lie showing us only the best versions of other people’s lives. We don’t see the blemishes do we? Those filters are amazing.
I’ve also noticed we live in echo chambers and lost our ability to debate the merits of anything. It’s all, “I’m right and if you disagree you’re either a racist, xenophobe or you’re coming for all my guns.” There’s a fancy word I remember from college — pseudospeciation. It basically means separating people into classes and declaring one superior to the other. Once you do that you are morally free to treat them like crap because they aren’t of your species. It’s a fallacy of course but it makes it easier to shoot people from the 32nd floor of a hotel. As we cling to identity politics and segregate ourselves into “us “and “them” we should be careful. When you stop believing others have value, that’s when people get hurt.
So what’s wrong with us? A lot of things I suppose. There’s no easy fix but we could start by listening to each other more. We could put down the damn phones and look at each other once in a while. And whatever your spiritual beliefs, sending up a prayer now and again certainly can’t hurt.
John Gray is a news anchor on WXXA-Fox TV 23 and ABC’S WTEN News Channel 10. His column is published every Wednesday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.