I used to be amazed to think about what my late mother-in-law, born in 1915, had seen invented during her lifetime ... telephones, electricity, automobiles, airplanes, radio, television, rockets and space travel and then the moon landing! Now I’m amazed to see how much has changed just during my own lifetime! An explosion of technology and knowledge! And it’s all so interesting and alluring ... and it’s happening so fast ... thousands of years of human history when life hadn’t changed very much, then BANG! Barely a hundred years have gone by and look at where we are! Small wonder that we might be struggling to adapt.
In last week’s blog I was lamenting about how we get so involved with our technology and social media that we are actually much less engaged with each other than we think. And that’s kind of a blanket statement. It’s not universally true or false. Everyone back in “the good old days” wasn’t perfectly connected with their family and friends. And everyone today isn’t totally cut off from quality interpersonal interactions.
Recently I read an online article about how more and more loneliness is creeping into our society. More teens and young adults struggle with loneliness and social skills. Depression and suicide in those age groups are up. We are more connected to the whole world and less connected to the people in our world.
Generally it’s in the generations that were born and grew up with all the technology. The ones who are more comfortable with the mechanics of running a Zoom meeting than the teacher and boss who’s actually trying to do it! And they’re also more comfortable and interested in the mechanics of it than actually participating in the meeting itself!
Technology in and of itself isn’t good or bad. Technology makes life easier and a lot more fun! But it’s not the main thing.
If you’ve read many of my blogs, you know that I’m a Star Trek fan. Traveling to distant worlds and the technology that makes it possible is fun to think and dream about. But if you watch an episode the story is always about the people and their relationships, not the technology. The technology is part of the story. It props up the story. But it’s not THE story.
They may speak to the computer and give it a command. It may reply to them. It will definitely carry out the orders. But they don’t walk around with it strapped to their arm or held in their hand.
Can you imagine an episode where all the characters stay in their quarters talking to each other via their communicators? How dull!
I’ve even caught myself sometimes, in my own mind while watching a movie, thinking to myself that I’m so glad those characters in that story have things to do because it would certainly be dull to watch a movie about somebody like me sitting on a couch watching a movie!
You can see evidence of this problem in any restaurant where a family is seated together ... all with their noses to their phones and not talking each other. When our world got locked down because of the pandemic, I could only imagine how uncomfortable it was for many families to be holed up together. I suppose they each just found their spots in the house and carried on as usual.
But I’d bet for many families, the pandemic and the changes it forced have been a big wake-up call. And that’s a good thing!
I hope that among the school and work struggles families are dealing with these days, that they are also learning to reconnect. Learning to talk. Hearing each other. Having family meals together. Learning to enjoy being together again.
And not just in our families, but friends and strangers, too. When around other people, just keep your eyes, ears and your heart open. People aren’t likely going to spill their guts, but they may be carrying some heavy burden. And a kind stranger who smiled and made a tiny little connection, may just be what they needed that day.