Human Connection: Are we losing it?
As a species, we are hurtling through technology at speeds hitherto unheard of. Our planet is now so small we could circumnavigate it over a bank holiday and talking to people in different time zones is such a common occurrence that we seldom notice we're doing it. The truth is we take a lot of technology for granted and in doing so we're in danger of losing one of our core skills.
Here's a little fast-food for thought. Imagine tomorrow or the next time you have to commute, that you've forgotten all of your devices. No Kindle, no smartphone, no tablet and no headphones. Is your pulse racing?
Think back, if you can, to the pre-mobile age, or try to imagine life without your iPhone X. How did we survive without the instant fix of technology?
The truth is for every step we take forward, it seems we also take a step apart. Human Connection is an art in decline. We are closer to strangers on different continents than we are to others in the same room and often we don't even know these stranger's real names.
The Social Median
Social media is possibly this generation's greatest achievement. It has the power to unite us, but equally, it's undermining the skills we earned from our predecessors. We have strategies and codes of conduct to help us communicate with faceless acquaintances, but god forbid anyone actually tries to make eye contact on the Tube.
The Rise of The Robots
Think of the word cyborg... conjure an image. You may envision a soulless machine in human form, engaged in some otherworldly task. Well, next time you take the bus, have a look upstairs and at the back rows because the robots are already with us. The only difference is that their mechanical parts reside in their hands rather than their ribcage.
You only have to consider the Oxford dictionary of the word to see how close we are to the age of the Automaton.
Cyborg: A fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.
Change the word physical to mental, and 'built into', to 'an extension of'... and it's clear to see cyborgs walk amongst us already.
With these new abilities comes a paradox. These devices that grant us superhuman abilities are the same devices which are stripping away our human skills. Sure, we can find the answer to any question, broadcast our inner thoughts to half the planet and never have to worry about ever being lost again. But in doing so we are forgetting how to strike up conversations, losing the ability to read emotions and locking out those who care about us intimately. We're trading friendships for associations and relationships for affiliations. We are the generation who can reach half the planet and still be alone.
Human Connection is a dying art and yet one of the most essential skills in business. The key part of connecting is communicating and you only have to look at any job ad to see how important that is to employers.
An exception to prove the rule
Of course not everything is the way it looks.. At first glance, the picture above looks like a group of kids ignoring the amazing artwork behind them at the Rijksmuseum. Indeed this picture spread like the proverbial flash fire across the fibre optic webs of the net and with it a proliferated poisonous message.
“Look at these kids... can't they stay off their phones long enough to see the beauty behind them?”
...But like so much of the internet, the message is false and its intention malicious. You see the children in this photo are actually sharing, studying and engaging in the life of the grandmaster. They are awake and in the moment in a way that was not possible in our youth. Human connection is a skill we may be losing, but technology is not solely to blame.
Changing the code
What can we do about it? Well, the answer is simple we can change.
We are the dungeon masters of our destinies. If you've recognized yourself anywhere above, it's time to put up your hand and make a difference. It takes a little bravery to put down your phone, it takes a little courage to strike up a conversation and it takes a moment to reach out to someone else.
Human Connection is about the moment. It's about a vested interest in someone else. It's about reaching out, putting down the device and being there sharing the encounter and the adventure. We need to focus on each other and on the right now and less on the parlour tricks and the flashing lights.