Brewing thoughts: Openness in our lifetime

Addison Smith | Opinions Editor

Last week, a woman sitting across from me on the bus with a messy bun and yoga pants hissed loudly through her phone to a hypothetical boyfriend. Now, I understand that people talk loudly on their cell phones at times, so this obviously wasn’t new to me. What was new however, was the context of their conversation. The lady across from me on the bus was having phone sex.

Yes, you read that correctly. The woman across from me was having phone sex on a Pittsburgh Port Authority bus during rush hour. No one around her, including myself, felt compelled to say a word. There were even children, and their parents didn’t seem to care that they were getting an earful about what that woman truly wanted in that moment. No one made eye contact with anyone else as to mime “hey, this is kind of inappropriate for public transportation.” Nothing was done.

Then, the woman got off the bus and people started taking their headphones out at which point the conversation about her began. “Did she realize there were children?” “Well, that was an earful I didn’t need.” “I feel violated.”

This got me thinking, why didn’t these people voice their concerns when the woman was on the bus? My thought process went through a ton of explanations: people are absorbed in their cell phones, no one wanted to be the person who interrupted something so intimate, people were afraid of her. Then, it hit me.

We’ve become more open as a society and have learned to expect moments like that and then quickly turn around and discuss them when the other person turns away. Our generation grasps that this isn’t a normal circumstance, but we still let it happen anyway. We were conditioned to believe that this is somehow normal. People don’t seem to care what is out there about themselves anymore. We are a generation that wears hearts on our sleeves and doesn’t get embarrassed easily.

Are these negative traits? Absolutely not. However, what makes us as a generation willing to be so open to moments like this? There are a multitude of factors that crossed my mind, but the one that stuck with me the most is social media and the Internet.

We’re a generation that lives to post photos to Instagram and Facebook. We love people to see every second of what we are doing. If you have 35 Facebook friends or maybe over 1,000, you still post things for them to see about your life. You’re willing to share things like a status update about a parent’s birthday, your relationship status, your job, your hobbies and so many other things with these “friends.”

You read those statuses from the girl who had a baby out of wedlock; about how she and the baby’s dad are engaged. You see the moment someone’s relationship combusts with a notification on your news feed saying, “Your friend is now single.” Knowing more about a person’s life than is intended is something that has become engrained in our brains.

Honestly, there are some friends or followers that I know I don’t want seeing my relationship status or my location. It’s not their business to know every little minute detail about me. Therefore, I don’t share many moments. Although we as a generation may be more willing to be open, there are still some limits to that.

In my media ethics course, we were discussing why we as a generation are so willing to let social media and applications know so much about us. Honestly, it’s the way our brains work and how we’ve learned to live our lives. To us, it’s socially acceptable to update Facebook on our whereabouts because we haven’t been taught or realized differently.
Just think what your reaction would have been to the woman on the bus. Would you have spoken up or would you have held back only to discuss it after? Actually, would it even have fazed you at all? We think of the world as full of openness, but at certain points, don’t you feel like there’s extremes?

Next time you’re on a Port Authority bus, just listen. You never know if there’s a great story waiting around the corner thanks to a 50 year old woman who just can’t grasp keeping it in her pants.