Technology and Social Interaction
Years ago it would have been “nice” to have a smartphone. Nowadays it's almost a necessity to have one. And with this “necessity” our communication patterns are changing. Walking down a street we see people engaging with their smartphones and ignoring life around them. And it’s the same pattern in restaurants, malls, movie theaters and even social functions. Christ, even on dates! In fact, disengaging from normal social interaction is becoming the norm – or at least routine. It seems that many of us can’t live without our tech gadgets.
But where is this human to technology engagement taking us? Certainly it is taking us into new social communication frontiers because it has improved our lives tremendously. However, although the ability to engage with others through technology is important, the lack of engagement with others around us as a result of using technology is an equally important pattern to observe. And this emerging dynamic of social interaction is still in its infancy. What will social interaction amidst accelerated growth in technology be 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 humans and instead just dialogue with technology like we’re starting to do now? Will it be acceptable to put bury yourself in your tech gadgets even though you’re surrounded by friends and family? The social interaction patterns we set today will lead the path for the social interaction of the future so at the very least it’s important to recognize them.
In the back of our minds we all are perhaps aware that these patterns are emerging. But what many people may not realize is the magnitude of change these patterns will 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 because our descendants use it less?
We may not be able to control the masses if the masses continue to choose engaging with technology. But at the very least we can control our individual participation. Taking a break from technology may help us regain the normal human social interaction years of evolution and learning shaped us with. Things like smiling, saying hello to strangers and having conversations. Yes, these are important social behaviors. It may not be ideal, but unplugging from technology, at least for a day, may help us bring our human social behavior back, or at least help keep it in tune.
So now I’m going to turn my smartphone off...but only for 10 minutes because I too can’t live without it.