as well as the Covid19 pandemic. This is becoming increasingly obvious.
Nephew Cat, a doctor, works in mental health. He knows there are increasing problems. We have talked about this. He isn't old enough to really understand how some things have contributed to the increase and I find it hard to explain.
It puzzles him that people are so "connected" and yet so disconnected. People have mobile phones. They are addicted to the little screens but they feel lonelier than ever. There is television to entertain us but no conversation. We can work from home via computer but asking someone a question involves an email.
Are we losing the art of holding a conversation? Do we actually listen to what our friends say any more?
Yesterday there were five children, all still of primary school age, racing up and down our street - currently almost free of traffic. They were on bikes and scooters. They don't live in our street so I was aware of them. It is very rare for children that young to be allowed out on their own. I wondered if their parents were even aware of where they were - and then sure they were not because the children were not sure which street they were actually in.
How did I know this? Because they were talking to each other - on their mobile phones. These are children who are not yet perhaps twelve years of age. They were playing some game or other in the same street and they were talking on their phones.
We would have been shouting to one another. Our mothers might not have known precisely where we were but someone would have known us. When we were not shouting to one another we would have been huddled in groups negotiating, deciding who did what, where we were going and why. All that seems to have gone from weekend play. Of course during the week children are now at school, in after-school activities, or in out-of-school hours/holiday care. We didn't have that. We had to entertain ourselves.
Of course there were mental health problems in my generation. There is a mother around the corner who, at the age of 87, is still caring for her severely psychotic son. I see him occasionally. He will be talking to the power pole outside their house or pretending to drive the rusting cars in their front garden. His mother longs to be rid of the cars but doesn't dare for fear of upsetting him. There are other people I know who have had episodes of severe depression or who simply wander the streets here their capacity to think and communicate dulled to almost nothing by strong drugs. It's not good. I try to say hello but, more often than not, there is no response.
But this is not the same as the really hidden problems. It isn't the same as the people whose "conversations" are held almost entirely by phone. It isn't the same as people who will tell you they have a hundred "friends" on Facebook but have really just accepted every invitation to "friend" someone and will never meet them. I don't see that as real friendship. Friendship is more a "let's sit down and have tea or coffee or (if you are that way inclined) a glass of wine together and have an actual face-to-face conversation" sort of thing isn't it?
We are putting more than "social distancing" between us. We are putting screens between us. Getting a text message from a "friend" is no substitute for seeing them and saying "Hello".