In 2007, I was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder, by my psychiatrist.
I had never heard of that before.
I spoke with my therapist about it.
He said my psychiatrist could be right–and related the basic symptoms of autistic spectrum disorder.
My personality fit the symptoms quite well.
Like obsessive-compulsive disorder, which I also had, this autistic spectrum disorder wasn’t all bad. It had some features that could actually be channeled in a positive manner.
But the most negative symptom of this disorder was great difficulty empathizing with other people. Not sympathizing–empathizing, putting myself in another person’s shoes.
This manifested itself in my one-on-one conversation. I had no trouble at all speaking alone in front of a large group of people–I’d discovered a talent for public speaking in high school.
But I had great difficulty speaking with anyone one-on-one–especially if I knew that person well.
I tended to dominate every conversation.
And I began working on that immediately.
As a result, my conversational skills improved greatly.
But I have always had great difficulty empathizing with others–not sympathizing–empathizing.
And my ability to empathize has improved tremendously ever since I was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder. I have much more improvement to make–but at least I’m on my way.
Yet here’s the catch: As I take account of my difficulty empathizing with others, I also notice others’ difficulty empathizing–with me, or anyone else.
It is said that everyone is mentally ill, to some extent–that those labeled with specific psychiatric disorders are only those who have more than their fair share of symptoms of specific psychiatric disorders.
And this is quite right.
Everyone in the world has symptoms of clinical depression at times, bipolar disorder at times, obsessive-compulsive disorder at times–and even schizophrenia at times.
And yes, everyone in the world has symptoms of autistic spectrum disorder at times.
But the inability to empathize with others–the tendency to be in one’s own little world so much that he or she is completely oblivious to the needs of others–I see this symptom increasing in almost everyone around me.
And it seems to have one cause–cellular technology.
As mentioned, I made the decision–years ago–not to get a mobile device.
And every day, as I see the damage mobile device usage is doing to the relationships among my fellow human beings, I get more relieved that I still have no mobile device.
Not only is everyone oblivious to the needs and feelings of everyone else when using a mobile device (cellphone, iphone, smartphone)–everyone who uses a mobile device at all is becoming oblivious to the needs and feelings of everyone else even when not using a mobile device.
Mobile device usage is zoning people out of their environments–turning them into virtual zombies.
Mobile device users are remaining in mobile-device mode all the time.
They see me approaching in my truck, and it doesn’t even occur to them to step out of the way. They see others approaching in their vehicles, and it doesn’t even occur to them to step out of the way.
They hold up traffic in their own vehicles, as if they are the only drivers on the road.
They break in line in front of others, not even realizing what they’re doing.
They bump into others, with no “excuse me”s.
They fail to acknowledge anyone even taking a chair beside them.
The list is endless–mobile device users no longer have any manners–even when they’re not using their Digital-Age pacifiers.
They have no consideration, not only for the feelings of others, but for the lives of others.
Simply put, they are becoming more and more like the little machines they use–insensitive, inconsiderate, and inhuman.
And today–on my fiftieth birthday–I have noticed this more than ever before.
This mindless addiction to mobile devices is destroying our relationships with one another–all over the world.
We have got to get human again.
And the only way to get human again is to get rid of our mobile devices–our Digital-Age pacifiers–and start noticing our fellow human beings again.
There is a bumper sticker I see all the time in the Greater Pensacola area:
“STAND UP FOR AMERICA–BE AMERICAN!”
What simplistic, meaningless, nationalistic bullshit.
How about this, instead:
STAND UP FOR HUMANITY–BE HUMAN!