Thursday, 10 May 2007

What's That You Say, I've Got Beans In My Ears

Most of the times I see people talking to themselves in total oblivion to passers-by, I veer to the other side of the pavement, giving them a wide birth.

This is no doubt a learned response from childhood, where I often encountered a man suffering from such delusions on way to school. Mental illness can be a most debilitating thing and as a small child the strangeness of the situation encouraged such a response.

I was therefore with some consternation that I noted when I first arrived that a large proportion of the Singaporean population seemed to be suffering in a similar manner. As the streets here are somewhat more crowded than those in rural Taranaki there was no escape from being acosted by such unfortunates.

A closer examination however reveals that it is technology that is driving this self obsession, not illness.

Singaporeans of many generations have cables and plugs sprouting from just about every orifice. This is very much the 'wired generation' and they manage to maintain simultaneous conversations with multiple parties, with apparent ease. Most have an iPOD or similar, a mobile phone, a PDA or a combination device containing all of the aforementioned.

Invariably they enjoy a cocooned life safe behind their headsets which, while not being completely anti-social, makes discourse with other parties difficult.

The other observation I have made is just how prevalent instant messenger (web based) communications are, especially amongst the young. Virtual networking is the social norm and the use of wireless, laptops, cameras and messenger software appeals to this generation because its immediacy.

And what of "Beans In My Ears"?

Well there are a few of us around who recall a group in the '60's called the Serendipity Singers who recorded a song with this title. The lyrics while humourous make the point that we seldom listen to others. An earpiece in place makes such endeavours doubly difficult.


Anonymous said...

Anti social activities in singapore are not too uncommon. Asian people engage with one another in a less open way. In fact, i think networking tools help people express themselves more freely on the internet.

Shared this good read on Singapore's social news site,

Direct link,

Jolly Roger said...

You are quite correct that Asian people engage, but maybe not as openly as Westerners. My posting wasn't meant to infer that I found Singaporeans anti-social as I do not. They are in main friendly and communicative (even the bus drivers, who were not that forthcoming when I first visited Singapore more than twenty years ago)
The casual (actual) communication with strangers met on the street does not happen to the same degree it once did. No doubt this has been replaced by the virtual networking you refer to in your comment.