Shopping Carts and Social Media: Why Are We Getting Lazier?

I came across this visual display of laziness during my grocery run today:

I know the photo is a little dark, so allow me to elaborate.  It’s a shopping cart in the middle of the grocery store’s main thoroughfare.  I had to drive around it.

I know what you “benefit of the doubt” people are thinking right now.  Maybe the wind blew it into the road!  Maybe its wheels went haywire and it rolled–independently–from the cart corral into the middle of traffic!  Surely no one would do this!

But, someone did.  In fact, several people did.  I witnessed a family load their groceries into their trunk, watch as their shopping cart rolled away from their Honda Odyssey, and proceed to climb into the van and drive away.

I don’t understand this willful ignorance of how your own inconsiderate actions–however small–can affect those around you.

Maybe this lack of awareness is a blessing.  As the van’s sliding door closed automatically at about 4 inches per minute, allowing the children in the backseat to watch the shopping cart come to a halt several feet from the sidewalk, they looked bored, but happy.

I, on the other hand, tend to over-think the consequences of the tiniest actions.  If I take off my socks in the middle of the night and fling them onto the floor, I imagine my husband getting up, slipping on the socks in the dark, falling violently, breaking his neck or injuring his back, and by the time I get up to put the socks into the laundry basket, I’m considering the logistics of adding a wheelchair ramp to the front of the house.

While the evidence isn’t always as photogenic as the shopping cart incident, I see instances of inconsiderateness every day: littering, smoking two feet from the building’s only covered entrance, texting when you should be paying attention to my compelling Powerpoint presentation.

You’d think that people would be more considerate now, given the increasing ease of connecting with and influencing other human beings.  Just a few decades ago, the average American kept in touch with far-off folks via letters and an occasional road trip, but the scope of their everyday interactions was much smaller: local friends, local family.

Today the internet and social media allow us to keep in touch with hundreds of people.  We can watch our high school friends grow up, do business with colleagues on the other side of the globe, and find distant relatives online.  We can view the intimate details of strangers’ lives online, creating a sense of empathy for someone we might otherwise disregard.

Yet the ability to communicate with other human beings more efficiently and more frequently has not made us more aware of those around us.  Your grandparents and parents might argue that it has made us more selfish and more aware of our own needs instead.

I don’t have an insightful conclusion here.  Maybe my observation is geographically biased, maybe Silver Spring, Maryland just has a high concentration of jerks.  But there must be some way for us to translate the “it’s a small world after all” effect of social media into “return your damn shopping cart, lazy.”