Opinion

The Social Disconnect

One fixed line telephone per household. One television set in the home. 56.6K modems and clunky PCs destined to cater to a family of 5. These aren’t bad dreams. For many of us, this was real. The world has become a smaller, more connected, global village because of the revolutionary advances with technology. High speed internet, always-on connectivity, data – the list really goes on. But despite having all this tech available at our fingertips, the world has never been more disconnected. For all the chatrooms and social apps, there has never been a time for weaker human interaction.

I grew up in the age of ICQ, MOOs and MUDs and blaring boomboxes. The world was a more open place. Social referred to a real gathering of physical bodies in a geographic location and sound was shared and enjoyed by groups. Even when the Sony Walkman came in, the headphones were irritating because people were willing to share. There were fewer cars on the roads and more people walking, communities were real, time meant quality and ‘talk to you later’ usually referred to a face-to-face and not a calendar entry for a con-call with muted participants.

Walk into any public place today, anywhere in the world, and you’ll find personal devices consuming individuals. Private connections being negotiated and established faster than you can blink and the temptation of isolation and control sets in quickly. You know there is something wrong with society if it takes less effort to keep tabs on staff working half-way around the world, than to talk to someone sitting next to you.

More children suffer from social anxieties today than ever before, and in case your kebab roll was delivered to you raw, the wrath of your negative post can play viral havoc faster than you can say ‘oops’.

Classic fiction opened our imaginations to just how machines will rule the world and fuel our minds, control our actions and model our behavior. It used to be a ridiculous notion that the Artificial would compete with our intelligence. In reality, the paths have been set and journeys have embarked upon. Apps help us to navigate, think and learn, translate and just be a lot more confident. That’s a whole lot of scary waiting to go crazy.

Development is good. Don’t get me wrong. But when you have a world full of devices attached to humans, you know something is wrong. Or maybe you need to have a machine tell you that.

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