Humans require interaction. Some have posited that our need to connect is as necessary as food and water. It’s how we’re wired. Isn’t it odd how so much of our socialization now occurs in the digital realm, rather than face-to-face?
Technology always gets offered up as a worthy surrogate. Facebook has become the default portal where all of our so-called humanness gets played out—touch, taste, success, beliefs, even end-of-life drama. This has become our new “normal.”
Maybe social media and our lack of time spent in the presence of other humans signifies some higher order evolution. I’m guessing that it doesn’t, since studies indicate there are more lonely Americans than ever before.
When my friend died, I was torn about whether to send out emails to people that knew him and at one time had close connections with him. While I did let a few people know initially, it wasn’t until after Saturday’s service that I sent out a handful of additional notes. I was struck by how many people had no idea that he had died. A few sent tender and heartfelt replies. Others offered perfunctory responses, or none at all. Our instant communication is mostly Balkanized, at best.
These “digital shortcuts,” which we justify as time-savers, may in fact be enacting a toll on society.
An article that I tracked down through some web research contained a powerful quote from a Boston-based school psychologist named Dr. Kate Roberts. Commenting on what she’s observed, it appears that technology is wreaking havoc on how families interact.
“Families text rather than have conversations. We’re living in a culture of sound bites, and that is not developing our verbal skills or emotional intelligence,” Roberts said.
Roberts went on and made reference to a course being offered at Boston College on how to ask a person out on a date.
“It’s like we’ve lost the skill of courtship and the ability to make that connection,” said Roberts.
In July, I was standing on Lisbon Street, outside Lewiston Public Library, after meeting with a project consultant that I’d be doing work with for the following three months. A car drove by, and someone yelled out, “hey Mr. B,” a pet name that my wife calls me, and one that has been adopted as my moniker by some of her SheJAMS friends.
I finally put two-and-two together and figured out who it was who drove by and yelled out to me; a woman who sat on the other side of my cubicle wall at the Lewiston CareerCenter for six years. I thought it was very odd that she didn’t follow-up with an email note, quick phone call, or even a Facebook message. Nothing.
That’s what our digital shortcuts have delivered—people that have lost the art of interacting in meaningful and human ways. So much for Facebook “friends.”
The past couple of weeks haven’t done anything to alter my perceptions about why face-to-face is far superior to any type of social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other digital substitute.