Jesse Leach’s Check Your Head: Communication Breakdown

Jesse Leach's Check Your Head

The modern world has become a hub of communication. Everywhere I go I see people zoned out and staring at their smart phones, checking emails on the go, updating their “social media” page or Blog, communicating through text and email etc., etc. It is everywhere we go, it encompasses the vast majority of how a great deal of us especially younger generations spend their time. I recently witnessed (on Facebook) people sending their “friend” condolences for a lost loved one as a post on the persons page!

What happened to a phone call or even going to see that person? What is going on in our “modern,” “progressive” world?!! We are becoming more and more “out of touch” the more “communication” we have! Don’t get me wrong; their is much to be gained and a beauty to all we have at the touch of our fingers, but where do we draw the line between convenience and compassion?

What is communication? According to a generic dictionary, it is “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.” Over the years, our “common process” has changed drastically! This has led to, in my opinion, a breakdown in our interaction as humans.

I wrote a song about it recently, inspired by everyday life here in New York and a powerful documentary I watched on “Aokigahara” (The Suicide Forrest in Japan). I catch myself being pulled into the “matrix” that is smart phones and the instant gratification that is the internet. I have literally stopped what I was doing and turned the phone off, looked up and had a moment of clarity. If we are living our lives attached to the internet and connected, what are we missing or lacking in our everyday life? People “fall in love,” get into fights, send condolences, break up a relationship — all over emails and texts?!

Where is the physical interaction of; looking into someones eyes, touching them, seeing how their facial expressions change, how their body language speaks on a level words can not express in written or verbal form?

I can’t imagine how much miscommunication is going on in our society on a daily basis. Stop and think about a text or an email gone wrong and it turns into an argument. It is impossible to convey with simply words; words are merely a vehicle to our emotions and intentions. I think about all the messed up things that go on in our world, like the recent slew of school shootings for example and how much of that is due to miscommunication, hurt feelings or a misunderstanding that led to a total and complete breakdown.

Granted, sick people are sick people, but strong emotions can lead to momentary insanity especially in people with pre-exisiting conditions.

Let me take a step back here as I can easily go off on a rant. I am not saying get rid of your phone or computer. I am not taking away the fact that we can communicate to people all over the world with the push of a few buttons. Technology is amazing, it truly is. But what is more amazing is our actual physical interactions as humans. How good does it feel when you miss someone and you finally get to see them face to face and hug them, smell them…look into their eyes? It is amazing; there is nothing to compare to it!

I often spend my time out in nature, hiking or taking my bike on long trail rides to balance out my city life and my touring life. On one such day, I was out walking in the middle of the woods and I encountered a couple walking towards me in the distance. If any of you reading this are familiar with the “unspoken” trail etiquette, it is that you usually acknowledge people you see and at the very least say “Hello” or have a quick chat about how beautiful the scenery is.

Most likely, you will have at least that in common with fellow hikers or nature lovers. However, on this occasion, the hikers as they approached made every effort to avoid eye contact and almost pretended like I didn’t exist.

Mind you, there is no one else around for miles and the only way to get around me is to practically rub up against me on the trail. I smiled at them and said “Hello;” they didn’t respond and went on their way. I just chuckled to myself and then thought about it for a moment. I am quite used to this behavior when I am in the middle of a city…the irony was not lost on me and it inspired me to write this column. If you have ever been to a major city, you can walk the streets for hours passing by hundreds even thousands of people and not one of them will say hello (in fact most of them are probably walking around with their eyes on their phone).

This behavior is not shocking to most people; it is what it is. I can imagine trying to walk in downtown New York City and saying hello to everyone I passed, I would most likely have someone eventually tell me to shut up or most just simply shrug me off as a crazy person. However, out of all the hiking and mountain climbing I have done, 99.9% of the time people will acknowledge me and say “Hello”…kind of blows my mind…the less people, the more communication?

Think about that for a second: city filled with people all with in three feet of each other and for the most part no one acknowledges each other. Out in the middle of the woods, on a trail miles away from a city with just a handful of people around, and almost everyone acknowledges each other.

As per usual, I am writing a short story so let me wrap this up. I will leave you with this brief thought. My father (who is a very wise, learned man) has this term he uses (when we philosophize about daily life) “having a moment.” “Having a Moment” is when time seemingly slows down and you are existing and feeling a strong sense of being “alive.” It could be taking time to watch the clouds drift by, watching a spider weave its web, watching the sun set or rise. It is the little things we seemingly take for granted that happen all around us. So what or who are you taking for granted in your daily life?

In closing, all I am saying is take time to be self-aware, make an effort to have more intimacy with the world around you, the people you love and enjoy those moments of raw existence that are free from the constraints or our fast-paced “modern” world. What really matters and is the “stuff of life” is quite often the simple moments we have when we stop to acknowledge life in all its forms.

Take time and use it to enrich and fulfill your existence; don’t let another day go by with out having a “moment.” Perhaps smile or say “Hi” to a total stranger. After all we, all are strangers to some one.

As always, thanks for reading… See you on the road, and don’t hesitate to say hello, perhaps we can share “a moment!”

By the way, here’s that documentary on “Aokigahara.” I highly recommend watching it; it is sad and very profound!

For previous installments of “Check Your Head,” go here.

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About Jesse Leach

Jesse Leach is the dynamic frontman for Killswitch Engage, Times of Grace and The Empire Shall Fall. He also spent time with Seemless. The Empire Shall Fall’s album Awaken is in stores now, as is Times of Grace’s Roadrunner debut, The Hymn Of A Broken Man. Of course, Killswitch Engage have a new album in stores called Disarm The Decent.

  • Brett McCabe

    “Technology made it easy for us to keep in touch, while keeping a distance/ So we just stayed distant and never touched, now all we do is text too much.”
    -Sage

  • Renzo

    Hope to see you with KE in Chile, South America, and have a good “moment” feeling to be alive (and not just breathing) :)

  • Rebecca Hines

    Hey, thanks for exploring this. I agree, for me, I need to have balance. I constantly struggle with the me that would rather type an email than call someone or talk face to face. It’s odd because I, too, have shared in the hiking politeness of chatting or saying “hello” when you pass someone on a path or trail (I used to spend a lot of time on the C&O canal tow path). I think that sometimes it’s easier for me to text or email than to face my insecurities. Often, when I do, though I find that I enjoy talking face to face even with strangers.

    I met a very good friend on line and I admit I was nervous to meet her in person. I would not trade hanging with her in person for anything. So, I think that social media can be good when you use it in combination with face time.

    I really like your dad’s “having a moment”. I may steal that phrase. Dads are great. Thanks agian for your thoughts. Now I have things to ponder. Peace, Love and Light.

  • Cory Reeves

    Slow down this fast paced world and you will see past the illusion.

  • http://twitter.com/envyink Charles Ivy

    I couldn’t agree with you more Jesse. Today people think only of themselves it seems. Sometimes I wish technology didn’t have such a hold on our lives. I think everyone would be more considerate of the people around them if they just took a moment and disconnected. Makes you wonder how much more of a breakdown people can withstand before they wake up and realize that all a long they have been missing out on what is truly important. Always a pleasure to read your words Jesse. Thank you for taking the time to share them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.palmer.77128 Robert Palmer

    Thought provoking as always!

  • Peter

    Jessie I’m not sure I can explain how much this means to me. Your words here and lyrics (especially the lyrics from Alive or Just Breathing) are truly inspirational/motivational. i read many things from you that myself have thought of, as a similar minded person. but sometimes you remind me of thinks ive forgotten, or never thought of at all. As a technology student and intern at my work, i spend a lot of my day hands deep in technology. a couple weeks back my bedroom went without power for 4 days due to some shortages. but it made me realize how much time i wasted on technology when i was in my room. anyways long story short, i actually only clicked this text box to beg you to write more often. if not lyrics in a new album, blogs or interviews give us an insiration and reminder of why are favorite artists ARE our favorite artists. m/

  • http://www.facebook.com/graham.russin Graham Russin

    The first thing people need to do is disconnect the internet from their phones and have a separation from phone and computer world. Next, make a personal rule that if you have exchanged more then 5 texts with someone, then its time to place a call (situation allowing). What you say here Jesse…is spot on. We are evolving with our technology and we should all remember what brought us together before all this connectivity. Embrace your genuine connections with people, ones that start with handshakes/hugs.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/james.little.58 James Little

    After reading this the other day I went out into Sydney (I’m on a gap year from UK), and looked around me as I did so. Although I have noticed what you are talking about before – namely after I listened to the song “Disconnected” by In Flames a couple years back – it wasn’t until I read this that I thought about (and I paraphrase), “The more people around, the less we talk. The less people around, the more we talk” and I realised you are indeed right.

    On my way into Sydney I was actually listening to Disarm the Descent, when I thought; suppose personal music players hadn’t been invented, would people commuting to various places actually stop and talk to one another whilst they sat next to each other (my journey by train was upwards of 50 mins or so), or would they continue to ignore each other.

    Sadly as I tried to spark up a conversation with the various people who sat next to me, as they got on and off the train, very few would actually bother to try and respond. A few would occasionally reply “hello” or “good thanks”, but very few seemed to want to take it further than that.

    I suppose it must just now be imprinted onto human nature that, should some random stranger comes and talks to you, you must ignore them. This may partially come from “stranger danger”, but it may also come from fewer and fewer people talking to one another due to being “plugged in” all the time.

    The next time I am out in the wild I’ll have to try and spark up conversation with any people I see as you mentioned you did whilst on a hike, and see if I come across the same thing, or whether I will actually get a willing response from anyone.

    I wonder if as we extend our dependence on technology (as useful, helpful and interactive as it is), whether we might as a society begin to ignore each other completely, unless we are connected via technology.

  • Mchail Gorbachev

    Just watched the documentary, creepy but powerful. I don’t know if it was wise to watch it before I went to bed but never the less I see how it coincides with what Jesse is saying and I whole heartedly agree. I am amazed at Jesse’s insight and I am now closer to truly seeing the world that surrounds me daily.
    Rock on in life and in spirit man.

  • Luchezar Dangalov

    Hello Jessie, you are one of the greatest vocals and writers I’ve ever seen.Your blog is amazing and you write awesome things..Very intelligent person.But how can I contact you on private massage?I really want to ask you something.If it’s possible.. Can I get an e-mail or something? Thank you :) !

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