On Human Connection in the Age of Technology
I’ve been a supporter of communication ever since I was a kid. I always knew that human connection was a necessity and, although I was incredibly shy and somewhat socially awkward, I always found it quite rewarding and very comforting.
I used to be obsessed with telephones. When I was young, any time we would take a family trip to Target, I’d just hope we would have a reason to swing by the electronics department so I could scout out the telephone aisle and give them all a try. I loved everything about them; the way the buttons on the handset clicked, the way my voice echoed to itself with a slight muffle of static, the drama that resided in slamming the receiver down. I loved to imagine the various conversations I would one day have and the scenarios in which I could reasonably slam the receiver on someone.
When I was sixteen, my brother and I had first generation LG flip phones with unlimited talking minutes on nights and weekends and 1,000 text allowance per month, incoming and outgoing. Naturally, I used up all my texts on some boy, addicted to the thrill of receiving a notification and testing how fast I could use the T9 feature on my keypad. I finally had a phone of my own and I didn’t even use it to talk. In fact, all I wanted was a bigger texting budget.
I was still in high school when smartphones surfaced, but it wasn’t until I was halfway through college that everyone had one. I even had a class that listed an iPhone as a requirement for the course. I somehow convinced my mother that I needed it to further my education, but I still had to pay out of my own pocket to join the craze. I had totally fallen victim to the whole everybody’s-doing-it complex, but not as much as I bought into the totally-transfixed-by-technology trend.
Now, at nearly 24 years of age, I go to bed every night with the latest version iPhone in front of my face and happily let it greet me every morning. This tiny computer is my companion; I couldn’t imagine life without it. It serves as an escape when I need it to, and a distraction when I don’t. It has the power to remove me from reality and cut down drastically on actual physical connection. I, more often than not, chose to be in that simulated world at my fingertips instead of in the present moment.
Maybe I’m just an old soul or a fuming hipster, but isn’t genuine communication a basic human need? Is it really something that can be replaced by virtual relationships and meaningless distractions? And if this is the direction technology in communication is going, what’s next?
[Photo by Julie Bloom.]