• Juan-Carlos Duran, PhD

A Future Without Talking to People?

I want to make you think about something. In-person human interaction and the growing dismissal of it.

Remember when it was just "nice" to have a smartphone? Nowadays, we can't seem to live without one. Certainly, technology is making our use of it fun. It's fun, for example, to video chat with friends. Or to filter the heck out of our videos with image and sound distortions. Or to lose yourself just browsing the web, playing games, or shopping. But while these enhanced abilities are enjoyable and fantastic, we should ask ourselves: Where is this growing human to technology engagement taking us?

It's normal nowadays to see people engaging with their smartphones while ignoring life around them. We see this in restaurants, malls, movie theaters, and social functions. Even on dates! Sometimes those behaviors can annoy us, but we tolerate them because we sometimes do it too. It seems that disengaging from in-person human social interaction is becoming the norm. It seems we can’t live without technology and that we dive right into the world this technology creates for us. This need may be causing human communication patterns to change.

Nowadays we'd rather text than talk. We'd rather Snapchat than explain what we're up to. And as technology continues to improve, we'll probably continue reducing our in-person human interaction. So, let's think. What will social interaction be like a century from now? What will the norms for this social interaction be? Will it be completely acceptable to withdraw and avoid conversations with other people and instead just interact with technology like we’re starting to do now? The social interaction patterns we set today will lead the path for the social interaction of the future. At the very least it’s important to think about it.

Perhaps in the back of our minds some of us are aware that new communication/interaction patterns are emerging. But what many people may not realize is the potential change these patterns may create for the future. Will our grandchildren communicate less verbally in the future? Will this be acceptable? Will the social dynamics of body language and its interpretation change?

One of the things that the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted is that we are inherently social creatures. We need human touch and presence. We weren't too happy with not being able to be near our friends and loved ones for so long. Although we may not be able to control others, we can control ourselves. Taking a break from technology may help us regain the normal human social interaction that years of evolution and learning shaped us with. The interaction we are sometimes losing. Interaction like smiling, having in-person conversations, and even subconsciously analyzing body language and cues. These are important social behaviors.

While it may not be ideal, unplugging from technology at least for a day may help us balance and regain our social behaviors. Or at least help keep it in tune. More importantly, we should at least be aware of our own behaviors and seek to enhance our human to human interaction. We may not be able to save the world, but we can at least help ourselves.