As a species, we have a long tradition of watching our technology advance exponentially while lamenting that society is falling apart.

Our medicine keeps us alive and active longer than ever before. We have instant access to more knowledge than ever before. Fewer people are marginalized, and even our poor (at least in America) are relatively richer than ever before.

This progression has been marching on for some time now. So why do we always feel like it’s getting worse?

Here’s an example: All around me, at work, on the streets, in public transportation, at family gatherings, and in restaurants, I see not only people looking down at their phones, but I see the majority with headphones on.

I think this is especially a work phenomenon. Most everyone I encounter at various workplaces is wearing noise-cancelling headphones. They can’t hear anything going on around them.

When you block out everything at work, you miss the side conversations. You miss all of the clues that tell you what is going to come next. You don’t get exposure to what employees are thinking. There’s no indication of little things that may be failing… or working.

This is the same when people wear headphones on the streets or on road trips. You don’t hear the sounds of society. You don’t hear the urban soundscape of a city nor the quiet of rural areas. Culture passes you by as you miss hearing what people are talking about.

In all cases, you become less aware of what’s going on around you, and you miss so much about all of the little things that make life so wonderful.

My bigger concern is that people don’t know how to be alone. We’re losing the ability to appreciate our environment and what it’s serving up at any given time.

This is a common example of what tech advances have given us. On it’s face, definitely an advancement that we can listen to, and learn from, a podcast from just about anyone around the world. Yet, at what cost.

If measured from an advancement standpoint. we’re clearly better than ever before. But from a human experience point of view, I think we’re definitely losing track of what makes our world so dynamic and interesting.