“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.
“All of us ‘transfer’ experiences to some extent, and at times we are not sure whether an experience was something we were told or read about, even dreamed about, or something that actually happened to us.” – Oliver Sacks
Because of social media, we know more about each other than ever personally conveyed. When online information mixes with offline exposure the two get blurred. We forget where we learned certain bits of information.
People usually talk about family first when they catch up. The conversation then shifts to common interests in sports, music, books, or film.
Catching up is a lost art. Facebook, Twitter, and email have all silenced communication. We catch up but we don’t really ‘catch up.’
That’s why we’re often shocked when we run into someone that’s been keeping up with our life through our social streams. They often go into scary detail like, “So, you win that jackpot in Vegas?” or “your wife is beautiful.”
You should always catch up with people you truly care about face to face and be cautious of the updates you disseminate to ‘friends’, people you know but don’t really keep up with.
Conversation is flowing faster than ever. We’re meeting new people ever day. The abundance of communication is making the world smaller but our relationships less personal. Catching up is scarce. Make sure you catch up with the right people.