Sunday, April 29, 2007


I am usually quite cynical. Most major world events bring out the cynic in me. Usually I watch a single newscast so I can know enough information to carry on a conversation. Usually I don't watch anymore news for a week following the event because it's inevitably going to be about said event. Usually I am so grossed out by the media that I throw up a little in my mouth. Usually.

There have been three world events that have gripped me enough to watch the television for many weeks looking for news stories. They've entered into my consciousness enough for me to actually buy a newspaper and spend free time searching for info on the internet. A lot of that information is in the back burner of my mind because the everyday stuff is up front, but every now and then I find myself still thinking about them. On April 16, 2007 another event entered into that group.

I am haunted by the Virginia Tech Massacre. That's not entirely true. I am haunted by one particular sentiment of the Virginia Tech Massacre. I didn't watch the quote, unquote distasteful tape of the murderer or anything else that was sent to NBC. I don't have any personal feelings about that, I just didn't watch. The thing that jumped out at me in the news shows I watched and interviews I listened to was that over and over the killer was described as 'the loneliest person you could ever meet'.

Now I know that there was a lot more going on in this man's life than him just being lonely. But the lonely factor is what is haunting me.

I watched an Oprah episode a while ago on which they featured a couple, Yvonne and Rich who began Challenge Day in which they go to schools and face the bullying epidemic. During that show Yvonne said something that I will never let go of. She said that the biggest problem in our highschools today is loneliness and isolation. It's not drugs, it's not promiscuity, it's not even bullying really. Isolation and loneliness is the key issue facing the next generation.

While all of our kids are striving after the "American Dream" getting burned out by their activity schedules in kindergarten, since sports have become scholarships and not games, when everyone has an iPod or blackberry or cellphone or whatever technological device they carry before they're old enough to need one, while we live completely disconnected lives in the most connected phase of our history; while all that goes on we aren't necessarily fixing any of the shortcomings we had in our past generations.

As a woman who has married a man who will be spending his life with teenagers this is especially haunting to me. We have the generation or two that come on the heels of the Virginia Tech murderer's generation already isolated and lonely. I will say again that I completely recognize there was much more going on in this man's life than just being lonely, but do you see the issue?

Do you see how history is already doomed to repeat itself? How there are already so many people out there who need to connect and not be lonely so that they don't do rash things? Do you see how we're so mistakenly playing the blame game by scapegoating video games and hip hop when really the issue is our disconnected culture?

I don't really know how to fix it. I wrestled for a long time with even posting this because I do think is a valuable dialogue to have so that through discussion we can find ways to not repeat history. I don't know if anyone else thinks these things or not, but I decided to write them anyway. If for no other reason than to get them out of my head so I can hopefully sleep again.

He was the loneliest person you could ever meet. Sadly that's not a unique description.


Jen said...

Wow. That's pretty powerful. I am not at all surprised that today's kids/teens are feeling alone and isolated. Sad though.

Amanda said...

This was a good post, Amanda. It's always good to think about where society is going and be aware of what's happening, even if the answers are beyond our grasp.

Will said...

isn't it funny that in the world of myspace's, high5's, and facebook's, where people have 2345982923049 "friends" so many people feel so lonely, its kinda an odd thing really, I kind of think the word friend has replaced the word acquaintance, and now anyone you meet is instantly considered a friend, so no one takes the time to truly befriend someone...thats my random thought.

Jill said...

I agree with Will. We live in a lonely world. We cover it up by collecting "friends" who really don't know us. Unfortunately, sometimes the more crowded we are, the more alone we feel.
This was a good post. It made me think for awhile. It made me look at my students differently.

Susan said...

I agree with Will. Society is replacing friends with acquaintances. It could be because most people are afraid of rejection and online you can be any kind of person instead of the real you.
I also think this is happening because society has taken God out of the schools and government and every day life. We expect social services to take care of troubled people and complain when somebody falls through the cracks. We are our brothers keeper!!! We need to put ourselves out more than we do and actually reach out to our lonely neighbour or the student that eats alone in the caf: stuff like that. Of course we can't do it on our own strength. We need God's strength and compassion to do it.

Susan said...
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Mom said...

Excellent food for thought, Amanda!

In my childhood, we met our friends outside and played with them in person. We got to know each other by being with each other a lot of the time. We didn't make friends in cyberspace, we made them in open spaces.

I like cyberspace for keeping touch with friends from whom we have been separated by distance but I don't like it at all for making new friends because you don't really know those friends even if they share what seems to be very personal stuff - how do you know it's true!

Anyway, one way we can each help reduce the number of lonely people in the world is to befriend a couple in person - as Susan said. And, we can get our children out of the house an into the open space to make real friends instead of allowing them to make a million cyber-friends. Just a suggestion.

Remember, God made woman because it is not good for man to be alone - we can take from that that it is not good for any human to be alone.

Tanneal said...

You are so right...I've thought about that before too. I think it's our culture...we create monsters by creating more technology, more ways to become isolated.