Is there something inside you that says something's not right with our social dynamic?

I have this feeling for about ten years now, and it hasn't gone away. I've suppressed it for years, but recently it bubbled up to the surface.

When I was in high school, we were required to create a notebook about our lives up until that moment. The class was Humanities, and I'm thankful we had that project.  There was a question in there that asked how I felt about our advancing technology. I wrote down something curious because I felt that I develop my opinion about technology and its effects on social lives later on in life.

I said that technology is great and I’m glad it’s advancing so quickly because it will create a lot of value. However, I don’t like how technology is disrupting our face to face time and our social dynamic.

Ten years in the future it seems like it’s a problem no one wants to observe. It’s a very human thing to learn and get to know someone who you’re not familiar with and to learn more about them. Unfortunately, we do not practice that as much as we use to. Additionally, we do not know how to communicate to the other person because it’s easy to shield ourselves with our devices.

Is it a bad thing?

Yes, I have the deepest conviction regarding this. In my life, it’s well-oiled habit to strike a conversation with a stranger and build rapport. Partly due to the fact I overcame the fear of a stranger through a door to door sales program.

My observation directs me to the fact that as a society we’re passed the point of no return. Our technology has crystallized this behavior of collecting friends on FB, been conditioned to how many people likes your status update, or how many people follows us.

We’re in a time where it’s every person for themselves. Either you move into an uncomfortable social situation and run the risk of embarrassment. Or, take the risk and reap the reward of having meaningful relationships and conversations.

You have to agree with me that it is slightly odd that everyone is “plugged” in and are walking zombies with their devices. I walk the streets of New Haven, and most people are staring at a screen or have their headphones on. I walk into a coffee shop or a restaurant, and all you hear and see is the clicking of a keyboard and the tapping of screens. I once saw a family of four at a restaurant all on different devices not verbally interacting with each other.

Completely unaware and out of touched with their environment. I’m guilty of walking the streets with my headphones blasting music, and it’s my conviction to change the norm in my life.

Currently, I’m in the process of replacing some ingrained habits that I’ve development over the years.

For example, before I go to sleep I have my phone beside me as an alarm clock or mini movie theater for when I can't get to sleep. Now I place my smartphone away in the closet. It’s because most nights I get distracted and roam around my apps and most mornings I wake up I check my email and any other applications.

In my opinion, it’ll be better not to be distracted.

Another is Netflix. I have a love and hate relationship with Netflix. They make some unusual and compelling stories that give me the opportunity to devote ten hours of my life to a show in one sitting. Whether we admit it or not we all do it. It’s almost glorified to be binge watch shows. I don’t want to praise it, and I don’t like the idea of binge-watching a series.

This last one is practiced a lot out of respect for the other person, and I've been refining it over the years. I make it a point not to take out my device while the other person is in my presence. Or, take it out when I hear a new text message in my inbox. It’s rude and incentive. Plus, we communicate loud and clear non-verbally than we do verbally.

You are regarding the person as less than important when you have your phone out or grab the phone a text message comes in.  I use to be more passionate about it when I was younger. I’m just getting tired of calling people out because the habit is too ingrained in our “millennial times” and everyone finds it socially acceptable.

I make a mental note not to engage the person as much.

Here’s my challenge to you: Have a two-hour conversation with someone you know without any technology distracting you.  

I have done it, and it’s done regularly in my life. It’s extremely helpful to ask questions and listen to the other person. Try to find at least three commonalities, and you find the conversation will go by quickly.


Barnaby AlkireComment