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Monday, March 26, 2018

Six And One Half Minutes

Before anyone says so, I'll admit tallying the different activities subway riders are engaged in is a tad obsessive. But it's also instructive. To wit ...

On my most recent subway ride, including myself, thirty two people (yes, I counted), traversed from Penn Station - my starting point - to Lincoln Center where I got off. During the ride, I observed four folks eating, three sleeping, three more doing nothing easily discernible aside from staring. Two were conversing, one was tending to the only child, and one other person was reading a book. Your guess about the activity of the remaining seventeen?

Hint: In her must-read book from 2015, "Reclaiming Conversation", Sherry Turkle cites a statistic asserting the average American adult checks their cell phone every six and one half minutes. That works out to about ten peeks per hour, one hundred and sixty glances per day if you're awake for sixteen hours. How do you compare to that average?

Forgot to mention: The person who started the ride reading the book took a break jot down the tally.    


  1. I just reviewed my notes from Sherry Turkle’s 2015 book and came to a sober realization. Sometimes I look in the mirror and instead of seeing my reflection I see you staring back at me. Oddly, you have nothing to say. “Eye contact is the most powerful path to human connection.” - from page 36.
    Pat, do you truly believe that life should be a conversation?

  2. I was on the NYC subway twice yesterday during morning and evening rush hours. I too noticed all the people on their cell phones many while standing rather than sitting. (It was quite crowded.) I haven't read the book you cite. Although I made that observation on the subway, it didn't translate to lack of conversation to me but rather to how the cell phone has become an appendage. I am not tethered to my phone and will never be. They are not allowed at the table during meals in our house, hence we have plenty of conversation or not. Sometimes quiet as in companionable silence is also nice:)

    1. Ines; Thanks for your comment. Encouraging to know other people see no place for cell phones during meals. Also agree that companionable silence can be restorative.