I’ve been reading a book on marketing called Youtility by Jay Baer. Four chapters in, he brings up something rather insightful: access to the Internet has made people passive aggressive. I wondered, could technology cause more than antisocial behavior? Could overusing technology lead to a fear of interacting with others, or worse, make us afraid of other people?
Now, I’m no technophobe. I use the Internet every day for my job and personal use. I’ll admit I keep my phone beside me at least 90% of the time. I check my email on it multiple times a day. I text more than I make phone calls. And I’ll even admit that sometimes, I would rather email someone I don’t know than call them.
I know I’m not the only one guilty of these behaviors in this era of self-serve information. Suddenly, as Jay Baer puts it, we decide when we want to be left alone. Does that mean that technology is driving us further away from real, personal connections?
An article in the Huffington Post by clinical psychologist Dr. Craig Malkin sheds light on that question. He discusses people he calls “cybercelibates,” or as my father calls them, “e-hermits.” Dr. Malkin defines cybercelibates as “those of us who shut out not only friendship, but even romance and physical intimacy, in favor of the rush that comes with online connection and gaming thrills.”
What’s disturbing is that technology provides a false sense of connection. You can skim Facebook status updates from fifteen people and comment on a few, but are you really forming a personal connection with those people? Have we just become lazy when it comes to interacting with others because it’s easier to message a friend than it is to take her out for coffee? How’s that helping us build meaningful relationships?
But try to connect face-to-face with someone who is on their phone texting or fooling around online! In another article the author describes being at a dinner party where the guests are trying to get to know one another. Instead of making friends, one man spent the whole night on his phone, tending to emails, placing phone calls, Tweeting what he was eating, etc.
How many of you have experienced this? I once invited a friend over to watch a sporting event on TV. Every now and then he’d make an interjection that was slightly related to what was happening, but I knew he wasn’t paying attention. He was texting other friends and posting on Facebook that he was with me watching this event. But was he really with me?
Is this just bad manners or rudeness or something more? Do people find it easier to interact with others on a superficial level, which social media and technology spur on, because letting people in on a deeper level is too scary?
If people begin spending more and more time interacting electronically, are they going to forget how to relate to others in person? If so, could a real relationship become so anxiety-inducing that it leads to anthropophobia, the fear of people?
Posted by Kristin Smith
MORE: In a USA Today article on the booming sex worker industry in Silicon Valley, a call girl observes, “”So much of what my clients pay me for is that both of us turn off our cellphones and we have two to three hours of connecting with another human being that is not through the interface of a screen or phone and has nothing to do with whether someone’s stock is going to drop or not.” Wrapped up in their alienating world of technology 24/7, it seems that many tech workers have become incapable of a relationship that isn’t a business transaction.