Does Efficiency cost us our humanity?

 

It seems that even over the phone it is hard for me to make a human connection with anyone. I always have to speak through some device to make contact with a human being. To most people in the world I am just a name on a screen, a number, a flashing light or part of a statistic. People can’t make a connection with that image. When I call a company, whether its electrical, internet, or banking, I am being put through to a pre recorded program with voice recognition software to gather information to then transfer me through to someone else. Yet for these robots to understand me I have to speak in clear concise tones that are more robotic that the program I am trying to communicate to. Yet it is all in the name of efficiency to make my life easier. Oh how Aldous Huxley would be proud that his fantasies are becoming a reality as we slowly move towards a more Forian era in the Digital age.

Communication

It is not untrue that in the world today the rise in technology is making our lives, in fact the lives of hundreds of thousands of people more comfortable and easier. Even though I will be criticizing the way in which technology is affecting the world, I myself am a hypocrite as I type this criticism on my MacBook Air. However, the more we become reliant to these digital devices, it is possible that we become detached from our own humanity. Our own basic human principles that are meant to be skills are being replaced by apps and buttons, even our social jargon is adapting for the digital era. One may argue that it is all in place for efficiency, there is in fact which might be seen as a new form of evolution in socialization. Individuals are changing the way they communicate to in a sense be more efficient in communicating their intention across, the use of abbreviation were a way of shortening sentences to communicate quickly, but with the rise in cell phones and text messages, human communication is adapting to the digital platform. Instead of laughing a teenager from generation ‘Y’ will say “LOL” or “LMAO” instead of giving into  laughter. Many people prefer to communicate in this digital abreveative manor where it is now seen that the face value of communication is more formal and the preferred method of communication is through a screen. You will often find couples and friend sitting down and having a meal with their phones on the table texting their friend. And even when they are with their friends they are texting their other friends. A conversation used to consist of a sender and a receiver, two people having a conversation. This is no longer the case. It is the sender, the receiver and a their party, that is on the receiving end of the phone who is an outsider in the conversation and yet involved. With this detachment from each other I myself am finding it difficult to hold a conversation with someone. I have become to used to reading a message and being given time to respond, maybe I wont respond. Maybe I will just forget about the message all together and apologise the next day for my transgressions.

It has come to a point in efficiency that we are recording all that happens in our lives on online platforms that can be accessed worldwide. Such information is made available through platforms like Linked in and Facebook. These digital personalities have become such an important part of our lives that we now spend most of our lives scrolling up and down a screen for something interesting to happen. However, because a vast majority of people are also waiting and watching, we are no longer looking at what our friend and family are doing but rather what they share. What they deem is so interesting they require likes and shares to keep satisfied.  Everyone is ‘living for likes’, they require their friends to like what they have to share to satisfy some inner narssasistic need for people to appreciate what they have to say online. Because online, everything is more public than it is in the real world. A person can see your entire life on Facebook in a few hours, than they could ever learn from seeing you for an entire day. Its this efficient gathering of data about people that would keep individuals attached to their devices than interacting with people personally. An individual becomes a “friend” a face with a description rather than a person that can feel. This detracts from interactions and can lead to people feeling less for each other. Brands in the world have managed to jump on the bandwagon of this data gathering tactic where Google and Facebook both distribute ‘Big Data’ to advertising companies so they can better understand their stakeholders at a rate that would never be possible before.

When I meet people it has become one of my biggest fears now that the conversation I am having will have an awkward silence where there will be nothing to talk about. This is even more so when I meet someone for a date.

Dating

The institution of dating has also become a more digitalized platform. In the past one would have to actively seek out and socialize with others to meet a partner. One would need to go to club meetings or social gatherings to find a partner with similar interests to bond over. However, in the new millennium, one only needs to swipe right to find a potential match. With the lack of social bonding, it seems that individuals are loosing basic social skills; even conversation becomes more awkward with people struggling to find words to say to each other because they have experienced little. They invest so much of their time on the screen they have little to talk or share in conversation.  Going out together has become more of an occasion than it should be. The oncoming rise of dating apps has led to a lack of human interaction.

However, its overall concept is genius. For those who are more introvertive and lack the confidence for human interaction, dating apps breakdown the awkwardness of wondering if someone finds you attractive, by literally seeing the person at face value and judging him or her based on their appearance. The app then matches you with someone who feels the same way. The app then opens a dialogue between the two parties. However, conversation can become awkward because the two have nothing to bond over. The two have met online, the social human equivalent of this would be winking at someone and them winking back.  Though, because you can match with people that can be several kilometres away, it gives the opportunity for two persons who would have never met whether it would be due to geographical location,  class backgrounds or social differences to get together. It thus encourages mass dating and meets the criteria of being a form of socializing and sexualising with efficiency to match the needs of the digital future and the digital generation.

The most common phrase in modern dating is ‘Netflix and Chill’. Going to a film as a couple used to be a romantic occasion where a couple would be able to skip the awkwardness of dating and stay silent for about an hour and a half sharing an experience that they could later talk about. With the rise of Internet streaming cinema it is more of a luxury that individuals are not bothered to spend their time on. In addition, with the more open people are about sex, individuals jump into it without batting an eye. Couples are now able to avoid speaking to each other and jumping into sex without knowing each other at all. ‘Netflix and Chill’ is to sum up what has become modern dating, no longer dinner and conversation is required as the new generation would rather avoid the awkwardness of conversation but still maintain the comfort and presence of another human being. Perhaps it is the intimacy that is still required as a basic human need however, it is part of this human evolution of the desire for efficiency that makes us want to bypass the conversation and flirting that builds up to sex, by sitting or lying with a partner enjoying the better part of a film before having sex. Soon proposals will consist of “will you Netflix and chill with me forever”. This efficient form of dating I have begun to call is ‘Online Procrasta-Dating’ the art of efficiently meeting someone online to satisfy sexual needs.

Although I may criticise us for losing our humanity to the digital age, I must remember what that old man Darwin said. Those who adapt are the ones who survive. Not to say that we will eventually be taken over by machines are meld with them to form a society of cyborgs but rather our ability to adapt is perhaps what makes us most human. In the way we use technology and how we adapt our culture around it is most formidable. Digital makes us more efficient and able to solve problems quicker. I don’t think digital has had a huge negative effect on the world, but I do feel that the way people communicate has been hindered by this in the name of efficiency.

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