A paean to human interaction
Obviously there are many aspects of digital communications that have enhanced our lives. And, as someone who has always embraced the latest technologies, I appreciate the tools that bring the world into the palms of our hands at the speed of bandwidth. That said, there is one aspect of the internet that, to me, has been de-humanizing and counter-productive to our culture; namely, social media -- particularly Facebook.
The way I rate any new invention or process is by first asking the question, is it necessary? Does it fill a void, and/or improve upon something that already exists? Next, does it do what it does without taking away from, or eliminating, the thing it was created to replace? In the case of Facebook, and other social media, the answers are yes and no.
While it is nice to share photos and comments with friends and strangers, neither of these are new or unique to social media. And, while it is also great to have your own "page" where you can chronicle your life story, that's nothing new either; blogs and personal websites have been around for over 20 years now. The same goes for messaging, sharing videos and forming online "groups."
And if that's all Facebook was, I wouldn't be writing this piece; but unfortunately, social media is far more than a means of sharing and communicating; it's become an obsession and replacement for human interaction. To be more specific, it has become an excuse to not call or visit friends and family members; and worse, a place where people can live in a fantasy world of reinvention and Photoshopped images to avoid looking at themselves in the mirror or being seen by others for who/what they really are.
I know there are all kinds of arguments racing around in your head right now, but I'm not talking about that stuff -- yeah, I know what you're thinking... What I'm saying is that it has become so easy to not have real social interaction, that we're losing a vital part of what it means to be human.
Face to face encounters now only occur at the workplace or during the mating rituals at bars. Practically every other venture "outside" is usually dominated by the, all too familiar, face down at the smartphone. We don't truly experience things like a beautiful day or a concert, we hold the camera up in front of the scene to share it; rather than taking in the full sensory immersive experience, which can only be had with both eyes and ears and focus on what's going on all around you.
It's the same with having the smartphone with you when you do hang out with friends in the real world. The constant interactions to tweet, post, and share photos creates a distraction and distances us from the people we are with.
To me, there is nothing like being there -- all in -- and having the full memory of the experience in my mind, rather than a photo or video to remind me of a portion of the totality of the moments I missed out on while looking down, texting or snapping a picture.
Does any of this matter? Not really... it's just an observation by someone trying to hold on to his humanity before it's all lost to A.I.