Everyone has read a report of this kind before, either from an ageing technophobic spinster or some self appointed spiritual leader. They pop up on the TV or newspapers or online and have this air about them that says: “I know the truth, and you are all too blind to see it.” They seem to take delight in trying to point out how mankind is becoming increasingly disconnected from its brothers and sisters, that we simply don’t “connect” enough anymore and it will only ever get worse.
They wail and rant about the nasty devices we are all linked to as part of our everyday lives, the mobile phone, the Internet, email, chat rooms, virtual worlds, forums and so on. We don’t spend enough “face time” with one another anymore, there’s no real life connection as we all prefer to hide behind our computer screens and interact at a distance.
There is also an element of doomsday about these reports. It’s as if one day mankind will be reduced to a population born, raised and exists by being plugged into one machine or another and will never enjoy the truly magical range of human emotions; hugging, kissing, laughing together, consoling someone, making love, sharing a…(insert cliched experience here) …together.
I have a response to this uneducated outlook on life, and it comes in the form of a question:
How connected were we before technology supposedly stole our souls?
Give it some thought. Pre-Internet, pre-mobile phones, pre-email, pre-virtual worlds – what did we do? How did we interact with each other? And did we really connect all that much or in any other way than we do now? Okay, the basics, we had limited choice over how we connected with each other via communicative methods. We had face to face verbal/physical contact, phone, letters, television and radio (in more recent history).
Going back further when some methods were not yet available. Letters and face to face was all we had. Nice. So we spent more time in each others company? Did we really? Maybe not. I believe the human condition does not allow for prolonged periods of time spent physically with each other. We need “space” and “alone time” even back when we hung around in caves and chucked spears at hairy beasts.
We isolate ourselves on purpose to protect each other. Can you honestly say you could stand to be around someone 24/7? Surely those sad, fame obsessed dorks from TVs Big Brother have proved that any length of time with someone will drive even the most hellbent pacifist to outbursts of chaotic anger. We crave attention, we need to be acknowledged in one form or another at various times of our lives but not in a continuous stream.
Modern technology gives us the ability to choose when, where, how and why we want to communicate with others. We decide every step of the way how our own universe interacts with another persons. For those fortunate to live in parts of the world who have access to those choice-giving bits of technology, we’re not forced into it anymore. In the views of many anti technology enthusiasts choice has been cast aside for something more evil; addiction, isolation, loneliness.
Think of all the methods we now have at our disposal that allow us to actually reach out and touch another human being you wouldn’t have been able to do 100 years ago. To name but a few; from social networking websites to image galleries, online photo albums, millions of forums covering unlimited topics, even virtual worlds bring people together from all over the world.
All of these and more give us the choice to contact other people, and you know what? People do in fact use them to make actual physical contact. Like minded people meet up, strangers in the real world but possibly through long established virtual friendships. An awesome world of possibility!
My argument might be biased since I think the world of connectivity through so many avenues is an amazing experience not to be missed. But I remain neutral and consider the how’s and what ifs, yet I truly believe that we live in an age where it is actually easier to connect with anyone than ever before. And maybe our lives are more enriched now than ever before.
Sure there are a million arguments against my thoughts on this subject but since you are reading this (and have the ability to reply) doesn’t that mean that you now have a choice over whether you want to make a connection with me?