“The zoo is the epitaph to a relationship,” once wrote John Berger. And while this analogy pertains to human domestication of animals in faux environments, it also serves as a metaphor for the fragility of today’s human bonds.
We are alone together separated by a fence of technology. We sit next to each other but share our true thoughts online, hiding behind the protective masks of our glowing devices. We emphasize the “I” without the confidence to look at each other eye to eye.
Combine this narcissistic phenomenon with the hyper-speed race to the bottom of name-calling and provoked antagonism plus the inability to focus on one issue at a time and we lose all sense of objectivity. Compassion, respect, and gratitude vanish into artifacts of the past.
How do we build ourselves back up? For starters, we can slow down and cultivate human decency. After all, we’re all in this together. Recall that the birds turned into fishes only out of the urge of curiosity.
It doesn’t take too much convincing to bend the will of the well-intentioned.
People are fickle. Show them a better deal, and they’ll chase it, jettisoning their commitment to trusted relationships.
Care and experience are the first to go in exchange for convenience. Having your books and groceries delivered to your doorstep saves time, but it also prevents the happy accidents of bumping into a friend at the market or overhearing an interesting chat in the philosophy aisle.
Our phones are an escape from reality. We turn to them to avoid the tension of waiting.
Immediate gratification helps numb the stress of the moment. It also impedes our progress at work, relationships, and our innovation in general.
As Simon Sinek points out in the video below, the two things that take the most time to develop are our jobs and communication skills. There’s no app to help us succeed at these difficult and messy things other than our willingness and patience.
All the time spent staring at screens instead of observing our surroundings impede the serendipitous discoveries that lead to innovation. How can we think of new ideas when we’re preoccupied with a bright shiny object?
Our willpower is weak. To strengthen it, we can start by changing our habits. We can leave the phone behind when we go to dinner with friends and replace apps with a real alarm clock.
A phone is a convergence machine. It can do and be everything, yet get in the way of what’s important. There’s no way around the fact that good things take time which needs us to play the long game. We have to find enjoyment in this slow but steady process called life.