I was walking in the park recently and it was filled with people talking on their mobile phones. They were passing other people without looking at them, saying hello, noticing their babies or stopping to pet their puppies. Evidently the electronic voice is preferable to human contact. The telephone used to connect us to the absent. Now it makes people sitting next to you feel absent.
Why is it that the more connected we get, the more disconnected we feel? Every advance in mobile technology is a setback to the intimacy of human interaction. With e-mail and instant messaging over the internet, we can now communicate without seeing or talking to one another. We have stopped talking to one another. Pumping petrol at the station? Why say good morning to the attendant when you can swipe your credit card at the pump? Making deposit at the bank? Why talk to the teller who might live in the neighbourhood when you can insert your card at the ATM?
I do not loathe communications technology. I own a mobile phone, an ATM card e-mail account. Giving them up isn’t an option. They are great for what they are intended to do. It is their unintended consequences that make me cringe.
So, I have put myself on technology restriction: no talking on the mobile during mealtimes, no instant messaging with people who live near me, no talking on the mobile in the presence of friends.
I guess I still like the basic human contact and I think it is important.
“Basic human contact – the meeting of eyes, the exchanging of words – is to the psyche what oxygen is to the brain. If you’re feeling abandoned by the world, interact with anyone you can.”
– Martha Beck