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Digital Isolation?

[Photo: Isolate It by N.R.]

Does anyone ever wonder why, in this age of high technology and globalization, we seem to be more isolated from each other than ever? We crave instant gratification. We're becoming disinterested. We are unhappy, emotionally starved. We have little to no attention span. We have so much to capture our attention -- ipods, cell phones, Blackberrys, email, computer games, 500 TV channels, TiVo -- and yet we are still distracted, bored and misinformed. We are often so caught up in the details of our own isolated reality that we forget that as individuals we play only a small role in a much larger plot. Do you say "good morning" to your coworkers? When you are in the checkout line at the store, do you take time to interact with the cashier -- to say hello and thank you? Or are you more interested in your cell call or your favorite song playing on your ipod?

I feel that as a sociey we are rapidly forgetting that we are interconnected beings, that our thoughts and actions have effects -- both positive and negative -- on the people around us. It maddens and scares me that we are letting these basic principles slip from our collective conscience.

Think about the wreckless manner in which people drive. Or the way people go out of their way to avoid eye contact with each other. When you walk down the street where do you focus your attention? On the ground? Do you look people in the eye and the greet them? When riding public transportation, I am always astounded at the lengths to which people will go in order to avoid having to sit next to another person! A single seat becomes available and people fight to get it -- even those who already have a seat!

I just don't get it. What's going on? Does it frustrate and sadden you?

When did we stop craving interaction with each other? Why do we now seem to be afraid of these interactions? Has digital stimulation replaced our need for human interaction? Can digitial stimulation fulfill our emotional needs?

What effect will these trends have on our communication skills? Our emotional development? Our children? Our future?

I kind of agree with you on that one. I mean, sure we have isolated ourselves, but I don't necessarily believe that we have forgotten that we are all interconnected or that we're not communicating with one another. We do know that we are all connected and we do communicate, except its that these two things are realized through modern technology. I mean, why go to your friends house to talk to them when you can jsut take out your cell phone and call them up? Or instant message them or write them an email? It's not that I necessarily agree that this form of communication and connection is better. In some ways it is, but in some ways it isn't. We've become accustomed to talking to someone without really having to look at them. We're communicating on a separate level, and I see why you'd be so frustrated over this.

I agree that modern technology is making life speedy and that this causes problems.
However new technology always causes anxiety...when television arrived people were saying it was a dire threat to society!
We will learn to adjust to it eventually and get the balance right with luck.

yes, it saddens me to see people feeling that human life is worthless. is it really?

Well, I'm the random person who insists on starting a conversation in an elevator with complete strangers. I talk to the check-out people. I make eye-contact when I'm in a crowd.

It's probably a matter of time before someone go nuts and responds.

This probably goes in the other motherly-advice thread, but this was another one that my mom stressed specifically when I was growing up. She'd demand that I look people in the eyes when saying hello or talking or waving or whatever'ing.. Then when I was older she'd have people comment a lot (she says) about how different it seemed than the other kids my age, that would shuffle their feet and look away and such.. For me, it's just the thing to do.. at work, home, out on the street, etc..

Now, what you notice when you're looking isn't always positive.. Just like you say, -so- many people will immediately avert their eyes away.. it's a pretty noticable majority.. But when they don't look away.. when they look back and smile, and you smile, it's nice. :)

You see some of the same behavior at work in meetings/presentations and such a lot.. a room full of people looking down at handouts, or talking to each other (or, hehe, answering emails on their blackberry's), when the person up front was specifically there to talk to them. I do make it a huge point to look at them the whole time, and at least engage with them while they're there so they know -somebody- cares to listen. :)


Now, there's also the other side.

There's people that take eye-contact to mean way more than they should, and it makes me angry that they take advantage of others' friendliness. Along the expressway throughout the city, at the cross streets that lead to the on-ramps, there's folks that will walk car to car with a little bottle of gross water, and a gross-er squigie(tm), offering to wash the windshield of those waiting for the light to change. I make eye contact, smile, and they grin wide, "Ahh, a sale, yes!".. And I shake my head no, thanks, and they're upset. But, I'd made eye contact. What nerve have I, to say no now, their eyes suggest. A guy a few weeks back immediately dumped the water out on my window after I'd said no, and then wiped it clear again.. Visibly and verbally upset when I continued to look at him, and continued to say "I said no!"

So then, the light changes, we all pull up onto the highway, and I'm staring at a cloudy window of streaky grossness, upset at the world whose eyes I was taught to look into. *shrug* Will I look the next time? Will you?

genderist: So you're the person that makes us all nervous in elevators, huh? :)

LV7: I think your mom did you a great favor by teaching you to look others in the eye -- I really think the habit makes those who practice it stand out! You also raise a good point about the potential "negative" aspect of the habit. I want to write that we should always be friendly and look them in the eye anyways, but I can't think of a solid reason to back that up. Because ultimately, one's personal safety could potentially be at stake as well.

I feel the more technologically advanced we become will result in less and less human interaction. People call each other on their cell phones when one person is upstairs and the other person downstairs. Give me a break. Humans are causing their own demise for a profit. That doesn't make any sense to me. We won't need to invent robots because we are all going to turn into one.

When I walk outside for excercise, I always say hello to those I come across. I notice a lot of people looking down, or away or afraid to say hi to me first. What is happening to us as a speicies? I've always been an out going person, but people are living in so much fear or disappointment they can't even say hello without looking at you.

I'm all for technology enhancing our lives to make it easier, but don't let it control your life. I love being around people more then technology. How are my friends doing out there in cyberland/space/time continuum? Ya see, my friends are in my computer. Ahhhh, I'm so confused! Ha!

It really aggravates me when I see people walk down the street with headphones or cell phones in their ears. I see that some in the work place use these headphones instead of communicating with each other - I think that this is rude behavior. In my opinion more are isolating themseves from others.

The thing I find interesting, is that they'd tell you it's helping them be -more- communicative... having an earpiece/phone in your ear 24/7 makes you ultimately available to friends/family/coworkers.. (while, you're absolutely right, isolating them from everyone else..)


The coveted cubes at work here are always the ones tucked away around some corner, or back in a corner someplace where there's no foot traffic. I switched desks a handful of months back, from one smack on the main thoroufare. People would stop by, ask questions, talk, etc.. I miss that. Today, if people do happen to accidently walk by while lost, they very often tell me how lucky I am to be sitting where I'm at. I'll almost always offer to switch with them if they want! It's lonely here!

But it highlights that different people have different needs.. Some folks need the isolation to focus on their tasks at hand.. They -want- the quiet. I don't want to focus on my tasks at all, so I -want- the distraction. :) Just different mentalities..


As technology advances, I think you'll see both groups continuing to get gadgets that feel "perfect!" for their needs.. isolating them further from each other, but ultimately bringing them much much closer to others like themselves. (imagine Cocktail Party(tm) by Verizon.. 'now you can chat with any other CP users within 25 miles, using your just your earpiece!' [but, go find a quiet desk someplace so you don't disturb your wife, kids, coworkers, friends.. while you're being social.] )

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