How being plugged in affects human interaction!
There’s no escaping it, everywhere you look – whether it be in business or socially – the age of digitalization is virtually our reality. It’s been 17 years since The Matrix franchise with Keanu Reeves depicted a dystopian future in which the reality as the human population knows it, is actually a simulated reality called “The Matrix”, created by sentient machines to subdue and control the human species, whilst the heat from their bodies & electrical or neurological activity if you will is used as the energy source that drives the machines. 17 years ago watching the hunky Keanu Reeves in leather (don’t judge me, I was a teenager who crushed hard), many lauded the movie as the benchmark for all sci-fi movies to follow. My adoration of Reeves aside, I actually wondered if it were possible. In hindsight, the practical 15-year-old in me knew that it was just a movie, an escape from reality and there was no way that an alternate universe such as The Matrix actually existed. I mean there was NO WAY that human beings were slaves to machines, come on!
And here we are almost 2 decades later with mobile apps for just about everything, social networking platforms that seem to take over our personal lives and if that wasn’t enough autonomous cars.
Simon Sinek inspired this week’s Kaya Central blog post, having recently watched his seminar titled, “If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business”, I found myself questioning whether he may have hit the nail on the head…are we losing human interaction? I will include a link to the video below for your convenience as I definitely feel it is worth the watch. However, allow me to get back to the core message of Simon’s talk, he went onto explain how as human beings we crave that one on one interaction in the best and worst times of our lives and yet with the advent of the technological era we are fast becoming more secluded in our interaction with one another on a personal level.
We’d rather email our colleague who is literally sitting in the cubicle next to you than speak to them directly, we prefer wishing our loved ones a happy birthday on Facebook than paying them a visit and taking them a present, we choose instant messaging over a phone-call to reach someone, online dating is gaining popularity in South Africa and we’re not meeting our life partners organically anymore, we’re in one way or another ALWAYS PLUGGED IN!
Most technologists will claim we’re changing for the better, that our much sought after gadgets and gizmos are helping us to connect more with each other, we can track our loved ones location, the advanced driver assist systems that are making their way as standard features on vehicles are keeping us alert when we drive and with a wealth of knowledge that is always accessible at the touch of a screen (yes even buttons are becoming obsolete) we discover more information. Whether we retain it however is questionable, I mean do you know the capital of Canada off the top of your head or do you need to launch your google mobile app?
Sensory dynamism, implantable electronics, search dependence, geo-location, video-calls, 3D & 4D ultrasounds, 3D movies, virtual gaming and the list goes on just shows how rapid the technological brainwave has come and as much as I am a tech-geek to a degree I do admit that I am ALWAYS plugged into THE MATRIX! Since becoming a mom, I’ve experienced my fair share of negative retorts and unwanted advice from other moms about my methods of raising and teaching my child. “I’m old school, I’d rather my child have play-dates with other kids than buy him a learning tablet, I’m sorry but I feel that it just dulls their creativity!” There’s no embellishment here, this was an actual comment from a mom of 2 who feels that I am stunting my child’s growth with technology. Here’s my response: Am I really? Or are you for delaying the inevitable? At some point as a parent you have to accept that things are no longer like they were back in the good-old-days where the adage when “I was younger and my parents did things the old-fashioned way” had some bearing. I can’t stand it when parents compare parenting styles and methods of raising children versus how another parent chooses to raise their kids.
No two children are the same, every child reaches milestones at their own developmental pace and no two children learn in the same way. My son took his first steps at 18 months – from his first birthday until the first step I researched and read a gazillion articles on the right age for infants to take their first steps and I spoke to other moms whose babies were already walking some as early as 9 months and obsessing over the fact that my son was still not walking! I wouldn’t say that I was concerned because he reached other milestones so why was I trying to control the whens, whys and hows? I stopped obsessing and just enjoyed my son’s unique little personality and spent more time with him when I was on leave over the December period last year and would you believe that a week later he took his first steps.
I could not have been prouder and at that moment the truth hit me like a tonne of bricks – he waited for me to be with him to take his first steps! Working moms miss everything, we’d rather be home with our children but we have careers and that means that often we miss many milestones but I didn’t miss this. After speaking to our paediatrician it dawned on me that the reason my son held himself back was because he felt insecure at day-care and he needed me to build his confidence, he needed his mom to be there for him, to assure him that should he ever fall I would be there to catch him or pick him up and tell him that it’s okay and that he should try again. It is this innate and indescribable mother and child bond that nurtures us as babies and we associate this with security and a sense of belonging and it is this human to human interaction that is fast becoming a replaceable commodity in the face of technology.
Don’t get me wrong, I will not change much about my lifestyle, I am after all in the media industry and this means that we are always online and relevant and YUP plugged-in. I will still jam PS4 with my husband on the weekends because there’s nothing better than a chilled afternoon on the couch & some couple time with the brilliance that is Naughty Dog & Uncharted! My child will continue to learn in a way that he feels comfortable with and his preferred method of learning is through his educational learning tablet, he will have technology at his finger-tips and if I need to get supper ready I will hand him my mobile phone with the kiddie’s play-mode engaged so he can keep himself busy while I rustle up some grub. No amount of parent bashing is going to change the way I choose to bring him up and I will encourage his current interest in space exploration, rocket-launches and his insane obsession with Toy Story. He’s 2 by the way and is already speaking about “rockets blasting off to the moon”, saying things like “space is amazing” and of course that “Buzz Lightyear goes to infinity and beyond!” At 2 I was probably still mumbling incoherently watching cartoons and playing with a teddy bear and here’s my kid watching rocket launches & documentaries of space travel on Youtube and already mouthing full sentences instead of watching endless re-runs of cartoons with “Mom of 2’s kids whilst on a play-date”!
Is technology causing us to lose human interaction? Well perhaps, Simon Sinek has a point we do as a species crave human interaction and we are far happier when we do have it and this is probably the only thing I will change going forward. I will aim to connect more, to engage with people I meet and work with on a more personal level, even if it makes them uncomfortable. Because we need that, it’s the only thing keeping us human!