What this photo doesn’t show is that many of these kids would probably be sitting there looking bored and not relating to each other at all. Rather than asking “Is technology replacing human interaction” I would ask what it reveals about being human. For me it makes human interaction more probable and more intimate.
What Makes Us Human?
I think what makes us human is what happens inside each of us, not what others can see happening from the outside. Human interaction is sharing that with others. As every marriage counselor will tell you, there can be extraordinarily intimate human contacts between two people for years with no emotional contact at all.
My experience is that both I and others have far more human contact with technology than without. I share thoughts and feelings with at least a dozen people every day personally. Then there are the literally thousands on email lists. Before technology it would literally have been none many days of the week.
My daughter is in touch with 2-3 friends moment to moment all day long with text messaging. Literally moment to moment if they are unhappy.
My Facebook page is connecting me with family members I have hardly thought of for years and years, and many more I never knew existed. And I know more about them than if I were still living in the same town with them.
Last Christmas one of my gathered family members asked if anyone else had been able to get beyond level 13 in a bubble burst game. One thing led to another and suddenly there were 6 of 9 people in the house sitting on a corner sectional with iPads and iPhones. The exceptions were a two-year old, the cook in the kitchen, and an 11-year-old on the phone with a peer whose parents were divorcing
That moment was probably the most intimate of the holiday. We were sharing a common interest and helping each other and laughing. It was a modern extended family grouping in which some had not spoken or texted or emailed each other for 20 years, in-laws one had only just met, and people one’s not-present mother had hated for 25 years. The age range was 25 to 75.
Technology Facilitates Human Interaction Like Nothing Else
I know many people share the view that communication via technology is inhuman but I see technology bringing people closer together, integrating the introverts and the extroverts, and un-isolating the isolated. It has been a god-send for many autistic people who cannot read emotional expression in others and often cannot display emotions or do it oddly. Nothing else can do this so well, or even at all.
This quote is often used as justification for criticizing people who email and text instead of making a phone call, which we forget is also technology, or dropping by:
I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Albert Einstein.
I don’t think Einstein ever met Steve Jobs.