Nothing Can Replace Human Interaction

Do you believe that modern technology has affected our way of being personable with others?  Is it a hindrance or a support?

I recently came across an interview with comedian Louis C.K. on the Conan show.  The topic at hand: should you give your children a smartphone?  I typically don’t follow Louis’s comedy routines, but he was rather insightful in this interview.  In short, Louis’s answer was no, for one reason: people lack the ability to empathise when they communicate via messaging, and that can be detrimental to a child’s development.

“You know, I think these things are toxic, especially for kids. […]  They don’t look at people when they talk to them and they don’t build the empathy.  Kids are mean and it’s because they’re trying it out.  They look at a kid and they go, ‘you’re fat.’  Then they see the kid’s face scrunch up and say ‘ooh, that doesn’t feel good […]’ but they gotta start with doing the mean thing.  But when they write they’re fat, then they go, ‘mm, that was fun. I like that.’”

In regards to empathy, Louis hits it on the nail.  Human interaction is crucial to good communication, and we lose that when we are engulfed in modern technology.  Mobile devices and messaging give us a barricade to hide as we send our emotions to others.  Is it any wonder why there are more heated debates online than there are in person?  It’s easier to comment a “friend”’s status or write a controversial blog than it is to sit down with a friend and lovingly criticise their actions.

Communicating with another in person greatly changes the dynamic.  If you get into a fight with a friend in person, you have to deal with them.  You have to see their frustrated face.  You have to hear their hurt voice.  You have to sleep knowing that you brought someone to their knees.  But if it’s online, you have the power to end the conversation with a click.  You have the power to turn a friend “off.”  Conversation comes to one’s convenience when the human element lacks.

Don’t get me wrong: modern devices have allowed people to connect from all over the globe.  I have been able to befriend people from Columbia, MO to Pittsburgh, PA to Nairobi, Kenya to Port Glasgow, UK to Wellington, Australia.  By no means am I attempting to downplay the relationships I’ve made internationally.  Even though I haven’t met some of of them does not mean my friendship isn’t real.  Modern technology has also allowed loved ones to still connect, even if circumstances have forced them to travel afar.  I recognise this and celebrate that we have this capability.

However, if we are complacent in having a friendship that is only filtered through technology, then I question the integrity of that bond.  Even if that desire of in-person connection is never achieved—even if the two recognise that they will never meet in person—if they are satisfied with only communicating through ones and zeros, then how strong is that friendship?

One man who thoroughly understood the value of human connection was the late Chessmaster Bobby Fischer, whose final words on this planet were “Nothing is as healing as the human touch.”  Fischer was a man who knew seclusion.  He went into reclusion twice and hid in several countries as he ran from the US government.  He was, by no means, a social body during his later years—after all, only seven people attended his funeral.  However, Fischer still understood the power of human connection.  During his time in reculsion, be it only a handful, he had others to lighten his load.  He had others to talk to during his final months.  He had others to listen to his rants.  These weren’t technological apparitions that he communicated with.  What healed him wasn’t the ability to converse with friends who lived miles away.  It was human touch that eased his pain.

So to answer my rhetorical questions listed in the beginning: technology is a wonderful thing. Many advancements in communication now allow us to immediately connect with people of entirely different cultures.  That should be celebrated.  However, let us be wary when we use our devices.  Let us not be complacent with binary-code friendships, for nothing replaces the power of human touch.

About Jonathan Seligman

Jon is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of NWYT. While his main profession is in education/music/history, he has a deep passion for philosophy, theology, ice cream, and everything else that life has to offer. See All of Jon's Posts

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