The digital world facilitates connections. Someone half a planet away can quite easily find you if you’re both somewhat public about announcing your mutual interest in a shared topic. New tools, platforms, services.. They all exist to make these connections easier, automated, and more transparent.
Yet they all facilitate virtual space. Even those that promote shared activities like hiking or running groups can also be host to dozens of participants that live too far away from each other to make actual “meat space” connection either impossible, financially improbable, or inconvenient. As the rarity of the time we spend with others in physical space, the more valuable that interaction becomes. Or it should…Yet the majority of social situations are rife with faces illuminated by handheld devices.. Each connected device is a fully user dictated portal to access specifically controlled content. No matter what physical space we inhabit, we can retreat into this screen and have total control – Any lull in the conversation, any discomfort.. All addressed by handheld escape.
What only exacerbates this situation even more is the specialized content that is available through mobile screens. Since it has such complete penetration in the developed world, the social rules that surround it make it a fairly acceptable activity.. Or at very least silently tolerated by all but the most outspoken pundits in most situations that might be much less flexible with other activities.
Of course, everything above that I’ve written is common sense, but still helps set the scene, to illustrate the new “norm” that’s taken hold in as little as maybe 8 or so years…Most of my content always comes back to self control, moderation, balance… Human beings as a species, especially in 1st world countries and civilizations are always seeking the route of minimal effort.. By not being challenged by basic elements of survival, we tend to create alternative stresses and still want to spend considerable time escaping those artificial situations.
The more time I spend away from other people, the more excuses I’m make to continue to hermit away. Perhaps it’s because my job can be easily accomplished from anywhere with a laptop, but I have to physically force myself to get outside, to get in front of people. The real kicker is that when I do I realize how much I missed it. How much I need it, how much I thrive in the interaction.
Tonight I had a drink with an old friend. Our parents were social when we were kids, we went to high school together (albeit a year apart, and so there was less academic social mixing) As we sat and chatted about various tech solutions, and what we’ve been up to for the last decade or so, it was refreshing to be spending time discussing the human element within all these faceless services, tools, and ideas. We didn’t pull out a device once.. And it was glorious!
It’s prompted this rant, and only motivated my writing anew. I have committed to engage in something similar at least once a day, whether it’s seeing my folks, or talking to a stranger at the bus stop.
Try it. Keep your phone in your pocket and say hi to someone new, or make plans to have coffee with an old friend you haven’t seen in ages: you’ll thank me for the suggestion, and perhaps feel as rejuvenated as I do!