香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「大勢でも孤独」の若者増 /東京

(Mainichi Japan) July 12, 2009
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Lonely in a crowd
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「大勢でも孤独」の若者増 /東京

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Sony Walkman's debut. For decades, the name of that device was synonymous with the idea of portable music, though these days the iPod can probably claim that title among young people.

I believe that the Walkman drastically changed how people treat being alone. Before the era of the Walkman one of the only ways a person could be really alone was in their own room, but since the popularization of portable music, people can block out the sounds of the outside world with headphones, creating a private little world.

The same is possible with portable radios, but with the Walkman people could listen to music from their own record collection, transferred to cassette tapes.

Especially attractive was the ability to make mixed tapes using favorite tracks from a number of records, which must have led to an increasing focus on one's inner world. Even if surrounded by crowds, even if in a public place, a person with headphones on can think: "I am me, alone." I suspect such people who feel this way were certainly not rare in the Walkman era.

Today's youth immerse themselves in worlds of their own right before our eyes, where they can live secluded from the rest of us. Feeding into these one person worlds, personal devices such as mobile phones and handheld game systems like the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS come on to the market one after another.

The "make your own world anywhere" idea has gone too far, to the point that even on the train one sees people shamelessly putting on makeup or eating cups of instant noodles as though the train carriage was their own room. It's becoming a major problem. I think it is a good thing if youth can enjoy both being alone and with many other people.

On the other hand, I feel that an increasing number of people are coming to my office saying, "Even when I'm in a crowd I'm lonely." Even when they are at a popular singer's concert or when reading a best-selling novel, these patients can't feel any solidarity for those next to them or those reading the same book. Sometimes they consider making an effort to make a real connection with others, such as heading out to a workers' demonstration or other kinds of activities, but eventually decide not to go, feeling that even if they went to such a gathering, it would be them alone raising their voices.

Some may try to connect with people over the Internet, chatting with others through the medium of the keyboard, but when they turn off the power, the feeling of solidarity with those on the other end of the connection fizzles.

Whether in lively places or not, these patients say, they feel isolated, alienated.

This year is the 30 anniversary of the Walkman. Yet I dream of a day when people will say, "That's enough of being alone," and once more crowd coffee houses that offer their customers the chance to sing their favorite songs together. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

毎日新聞 2009年7月7日 地方版

by kiyoshimat | 2009-07-13 08:25 | 英字新聞

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