The ability of observation has always been a strong suit of mine. I have always been able to pick up on little things, in order to see a bigger picture. Quietly observing can tell you quite a lot about people, nearly to the point where you can accurately predict their next movement, based on body language or behavioral patterns. Yes, observation can be a powerful tool in not only product marketing, but also in social-science.
My past few years of observation are beginning to paint a stark reality and seemingly dark future for our society. When I drive down the road, I no longer see children playing in puddles or riding their bikes. I still see a few at the parks, from time to time, but when they are there, heads hang toward a four inch screen, as their fingers put thought into texts at amazing speed and accuracy, highlighted with emotionally appropriate emoji’s included. Visits with family members have become conversation pieces on so-and-so’s latest post as we blindly accept the “terms of service” of each application, just to get a taste of the latest content that our chosen addiction platform has to offer. Do we not care that we relinquish our rights to anything and everything that we post on their pages? Do we not care that they then sell our information to the highest 3rd party, regardless of whom it may be?
It doesn’t seem so long ago, in which a world existed where people truly interacted with one another, face to face, creating long lasting bonds that weren’t over-embellished by some online persona. Although social media platforms have given us the ability to communicate with long lost relatives, we choose to use it to post our latest meal, or some clever quote we’ve seen online, motivational photo included. Our online conversations have become one-sided and biased, as room for debate has become a thing of the past. If you disagree with something that someone says, you simply delete their comment or block them, permanently erasing any contesting information or opinion from your newsfeed forever. We have created a technological world, where the only truth or information that exists is our own, and if anyone disagrees, they are a liar, a racist, a bigot, a conspiracy theorist, or any other flavor of the week label that we choose to use. Our need for instant gratification has left us impatient and intolerant of others, and the world becomes more and more depersonalized.
The outside world has become lonely. Neighbors hardly get together for barbecues anymore, and when you are out shopping, people either have their heads down looking at their phones, or a look of urgency on their faces, like they are on a mission to avoid any personal interaction whatsoever. They rush home, only to get back online and talk about the great deal they found on a “MyPhone 12, for the low-low cost of $950.” Our devices have almost completely become our lifeline, as millions of people spend countless hours distracted from reality and our interpersonal relationships suffer. Is this really the world we want?
From my back porch, I no longer hear the sounds of children playing, or neighbors laughing. Even during the spring and summer months, kids would rather be inside and online, rather than learning how to garden or pick up a fishing pole. Heaven forbid they have a real conversation with their parents. In many aspects, the online world is becoming the only world we know and this thought, in and of itself, is terrifying to me. It’s a place where your own sense of self-worth is determined by how many “friends” or followers you have, or how many “likes” and heart-shaped emojis you’ve gotten from someone else’s post that you shared.
Although technology advances in ways that could bring us all closer together, we have never been so disconnected. We are not only disconnected by our opinions and beliefs, but have become divided from each other, from nature and from what it truly means to be alive. Have we all really reached a point where we are willing to give up our privacy, our lives and our humanity in exchange for the next update or the latest content? Is that little boost of dopamine really worth the cost? So this is where I am, this morning, as I sit outside to enjoy my morning coffee. I just can’t help but wonder… Where have all the people gone?
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