Humanity as a technological construct

I like to think I'm a pretty tech-savvy guy. I get it; I enjoy it; hell, I wouldn't be writing for iMore if I didn't love technology. Smartphones never cease to amaze me; just when I think computers can't get any better, they inevitably do, and the gadgets that companies come up with to make life a little easier simply blow my mind (there's a smart breast pump for crying out loud!).

Lately, however, I'm finding that I'm distancing myself from technology. I stopped using my Apple Watch; I deleted my Facebook account; and in the evenings I opt to read more and watch TV less. I find myself pining for simpler times where I didn't have to respond to texts and requests to connect via one platform or another. Maybe I'm getting older. Maybe my inner cynic is taking hold. Either way, I was starting to lose myself a bit.

It's like we're the Tin Man in reverse

With the most recent American election (you know the one), I found Facebook became a cesspool of vitriol and outright hate. (Opinions are like arseholes, right?) And I have my opinions, and I had to keep telling myself, "don't engage", because nobody ever wins a Facebook argument. That's because the facelessness of the internet and the heartlessness of technology has replaced our organic humanity with what humanity has seemingly become: electronic impulses.

When I say "humanity", I don't mean we've physically changed; I mean our common human decency — the essence of people — has radically changed in the last decade. And I know everyone's said it all before, but I think this discussion needs to continue. Humanity is no longer looking people in the eye, reading their feelings, reacting accordingly, feeling things for ourselves, living through physicality. It now resides in messaging where we can say everything we want before the other person gets a chance to speak. We therefore feel things in stages now, changing the emotional experience in the real world.

We're more exposed and more walled up than ever

I would argue that we are more now a society of introverts than we've ever been. We are safe behind our keyboards and even on our cameras, broadcasting our lives via YouTube and Facebook Live. Though we may show our faces and sing songs and act in these videos, there is still a level of separation that keeps us from feeling like we're on-stage — which holds us back. Technology shelters us and keeps us safe. Our phones tell us how to get places; our cameras allow us to talk face to face when real face-to-face interactions feel awkward and unnatural. Without realizing it, we've all let ourselves be pushed and corralled into a collective "safe space". That's what makes it feel OK to bash others on Facebook or in YouTube comments and to speak our minds without a filter (think Donald Trump's Twitter page) when we feel offended or outraged by something (a whole other story — don't even get me started).

Don't get me wrong; a lot of good has come from this change in the way we communicate. People who were otherwise unable to speak their minds for fear of rejection, oppression, or otherwise now have platforms on which they may rest their soap boxes or simply advocate for the things they believe in. There are, however, two sides to this coin, because there are those who deserve the right to speak (because basic human rights and blah, blah, blah), but really shouldn't. But the way we have distanced ourselves from one another prevents these social faux pas from being corrected, and without seeing the impact our actions and speech have on other people, first-hand, it becomes difficult to understand our fellow humans.

So, irony of ironies, the very thing that brings the world together, the internet, is the very thing that keeps us all apart.

Automation in moderation: For your consideration

This might seem out of place on a tech site, but I think a level of awareness about the folly of technology is healthy. If technology is impeding our self-awareness, let's at least be tech-aware. I've seen my own social downfall since I started working from home. It's been 6 months now, and I find myself struggling in everyday conversation, often searching for words or not really reacting as I intend. It's a strange change and one I thought (in arrogance) I was immune to. This isn't just technology's fault — at least not in my case — but I converse with people every day via instant messaging, and it still doesn't help.

So, am I advocating for a technological revolution in which we eschew technology and revert to a 19th Century state? Of course not. Am I saying we should all get off Facebook and Twitter and use our phones only for emergency, instead preferring to play outside and read? Of course not, because no one would listen; we're too far down the rabbit hole; and that's stupid. All I'm saying is that we'd all benefit from a little moderation. Yes, we are engulfed in tech, and, yes, a whole generation is growing up with a completely different mentality than I have, but that doesn't mean that organic human communication needs to be brushed aside in favor of "evolve or die".

Getting a heart emoji back from a crush might give you the butterflies, but the butterflies that come with blushing and a smile are far more powerful and far more meaningful.

What do you think?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Remember to keep things civil and respectful.