The world has changed so dramatically in the last 50 years.
With just the touch of a finger vast amounts of data and the ability to communicate with anyone, anytime, anywhere, is available 24 hours a day. Yet sometimes we forget how those advances have drastically altered our lives and how we interact. “Progress” can be a mixed blessing, offering both tremendous opportunities and unforeseen hazards. Unfettered access and sites allow us to seek out only the information we want to hear and see while imitating physical encounters.
Decades ago we actually had to write a letter or note in order to “talk” to friends, family or loved ones far away. We had to put into words what we were feeling. Something tangible so it could be touched, looked at and read over and over again for generations to come.
Now it’s a quick text filled with emojis or abbreviations.
Decades ago the ability to speak to someone on the other side of the world was unfathomable. The phone brought us closer together than ever before. It gave us the chance to have an intimate conversation with an added dimension- voice and tone- imperative to accurately interpreting another’s perspective and sincerity.
Nowadays we rarely use the phone to actually talk. It’s too time consuming. Many assess the gist of a voice message in seconds before erasing and others won’t listen at all.
In the past we used to hug, shake hands, and interact in person. Even before COVID we often used our devices as an alternative to trekking across town or the country. As restrictions are easing most of us have realized it doesn’t satisfy our desperate need for human contact. Adding that in-person dimension is the final piece to truly understanding what’s being said. Nothing can replace looking into someone’s eyes, hearing the tenor of their voice and taking in their gestures and body language as they speak. But beyond that, holding and touching is ingrained in our DNA and a requirement to survival. Artificial alternatives are meant to be a stop gap measure, not the default one.
The idea that some are intentionally manipulating us towards even more artificial interactions that we choose to compose like “the metaverse”, is truly frightening. Sitting across from someone forces us to see reality, not one we manipulated, but one that exists regardless of our desire. One that must be reckoned with if we are to survive with our humanity intact. Without it, society and community will no longer be the tether that binds us. Instead we’ll be bound by our own constructs, separate from others, hiding within the devices meant to expand our minds, not limit or control them.
Just because it’s accessible doesn’t mean it should be accessed. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Just because someone says something is true, it doesn’t mean it is. In so many ways the vast resources at our fingertips made our lives harder, not easier. Decades ago we only had a few resources, now they seem limitless. But garbage in is still garbage out, and more sites spewing it doesn’t make them any more truthful.
I’m the first to admit when I forgot my phone and had to wait recently at a doctors appointment I felt lost and disconnected. I was forced to sit quietly, either entertained by my own thoughts or the outdated Parent Magazine offered as reading material. The data, knowledge and communication at our fingertips is breathtaking. We can use it to fortify and strengthen, or divide and conquer.
The choice is ours.