Is this where we would rather live?
Born on the tail end of the 1960s, I realize I stand right between two major eras. I’ve gotten to watch the end of the industrial age and see the revolution of the technological age. In the 1980s, when music began to change from real musical instruments to synthesizers doing most of the work with artists like jazz extraordinaire, Herbie Hancock, I didn’t realize how much of an impact technology would have on every aspect of humankind. In my lifetime I’ve watched the birth of social media, smartphones, and the decline of the human experience.
Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, I remember being taught manners by my parents, grandparents, and teachers. School even taught us something called Social Etiquette. In the early stages, learning to say please when asking for something, and thank you when receiving something were commonplace. Later we learned what is polite to do and what is impolite to do in certain settings like, table manners, and phone etiquette. We were taught things like don’t call a person before 8 a.m. because you don’t want to assume people rise too early don’t call after 8p.m. because people may be sitting down with their families for dinner. If a boy or man wanted to get to know a girl or woman, he had to work up the nerve to “ask for those digits” (phone number) and they still had to find the courage to call her. They had to have an actual conversation once this courage was found. If the relationship didn’t work out, they had to have a break-up conversation. There wasn’t the convenience of ghosting someone via text at that time. I never thought in my lifetime that something as simple as actually talking to people would become a lost art. It is painful to watch.
I realize that many young people aren’t being taught manners at all anymore, and the tech age moved so fast, no one even developed manners for handling tech. I was prompted to write this because of being ghosted via text. People I know, love, and care about, who would never hear me say something in person without acknowledging that I have spoken can now do that via text. I got zero response to a legitimate question because it was sent through a text message. When did we get here, and why haven’t we developed the same level of etiquette with our technology that we have with our manners before this tech age? Why are we allowing an entire generation of young people to go around being rude simply because they are doing it on a smartphone or computer screen? If that behavior wouldn’t be accepted in person, then why are we allowing it via smartphone?
Technology has moved extremely fast over the past few decades and social etiquette and manners for tech haven’t caught up with it yet. I remember the year that the iPhone came out. I will never forget the moment I lost human connection because of it. I was part of an organization that would periodically send us on business trips. Meeting at the airport early to have lunch with some of the cohorts I trained with was an opportunity for us to catch up about our lives, ministries, and just shoot the breeze. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations and connection as we chatted away while we waited for our flights. On one of those trips one day, my coworker pulled out his new phone to show us while we had lunch at the airport. He was so proud of his shiny new gadget. Then they all pulled out their new phones to brag about their new piece of technology. They were all so excited about what this phone could do. That was 2007, the year that the iPhone came out.
I sat back and watched as they were all engrossed with their new phones and slowly watched each person slide deeper into their own little world. At that time, I had to reluctantly upgrade to a blackberry due to work sending group texts that my little flip phone couldn’t keep up with, so I didn’t have an iPhone like the rest of them. I realized at that table that the conversations that used to bring me so much joy were gone. I had lost my friends to their technology. The conversations as I once knew them stopped, never to return. I lost the human connection that I once cherished so much.
That same year I realized that person-to-person connection was lost through email as well. One of my spiritual mentors at that organization had been hospitalized and died. Normally in a sensitive situation like that, especially when you are close to that person, someone would pick up the phone and call you and let you know that the person had died and try to find a way to comfort you. But this is the timeframe that everything was being moved online, including sensitive communication like the death of a person, so they sent out an email to us instead of making a phone call. Because I didn’t check email every day back then like we do now, I missed the correspondence and had to haphazardly find out during a conversation where the people thought I knew. It was very painful. The world was changing rapidly right before my eyes, and it wasn’t for good. Human decency, kindness, consideration, care, and communication were slipping away faster than I could have ever imagined.
Over the years I realized that people don’t even know how to simply sit with a group of people and have a meal and conversation without a phone being present on the table now. Just like that new Taco Bell commercial where people stop in their tracks as soon as they hear “The Bell” ring to go in a different direction, so does it happen with the chime of a message or alert on a phone. We are the most accessible disconnected beings on the planet. People are rude, disrespectful, dismissive, bullies now that they can hide behind a screen to do their dirty work. It has been sad to watch this decline of humanity. Granted technology has its place if used properly, but to lose humanity, kindness, care, and concern for others as a result of it may be a price too high to pay for the benefits in my opinion. The irony is I am using technology as I put this article out in the ether, and technology has allowed me to do some of my best work of helping to heal others. But if I had to choose between the total loss of humanity as I have known it due to this technology, and having humanity, I would happily choose the latter.
Since I started typing this article the first sexual assault and gang rape has occurred in the Metaverse! This excerpt was taken from USA Today:
“Within 60 seconds of joining,” she wrote in the post from December, “I was verbally and sexually harassed – 3-4 male avatars, with male voices, essentially, but virtually gang-raped my avatar.’”
She details watching her avatar get sexually assaulted by a handful of male avatars, who took photos and sent her comments like “don’t pretend you didn’t love it.”
The woman is vice president of Metaverse Research for Kabuni Ventures, an immersive technology company. Meta released Horizon Worlds to everyone 18 years and older in the United States and Canada on Dec. 9 after an invite-only beta test a year ago.”
The responses from this article in a YouTube video range from shock and disbelief that this “horrific act happened to her,” to “this didn’t happen in real life so why is she so traumatized.”
We have literally gone from using technology to not knowing what is real and what is tech. Our lives are so merged with machines people can no longer differentiate what is humanity anymore.
Where do we go from here? Is this something we can course, correct? Are we slowly losing our humanity to technology? Are we okay with this? Is this truly the world we want to live in? When is enough, enough, and do we even care? Do we choose Humanity or Cyborg? I would love to hear your perspectives in the comment section.
Nicola Hurst is Founder and CEO of Life Alchemy Life Coaching
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