Technology is antisocial

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Slightly hypocritical topic for a blog post maybe, but give it a chance.

Whoever it was who said “Technology is the science of arranging life so that one need not experience it” was certainly on the right track. Many of the advances in technology in the past have resulted from our desire to detach ourselves from the unpredictability, and hostility occasionally, of our surroundings. Recently a more worrying trend has been in evidence: technology is increasing separating us from one another.

Think of all the small, everyday tasks that people perform which no longer involve contact with another person- certainly not face to face at least. Need some money to buy food? Why stand in a queue of people in the bank and wait to have your money counted out for you by a cashier when you could simply use the machine outside? Just make sure nobody else is standing close enough to you to see your PIN, or talk to you, heaven forbid.

Speaking of buying food, isn’t the supermarket so much more convenient than all those small family-run shops in town where your parents used to take you as a child, and where they may still recognise you? Especially since they installed those automatic tills where you can swipe the barcodes yourself. It’s so much fun, I can’t understand why those teenage girls who used to work there were all so miserable. They’re probably much happier now they get to sit at home all day, the twins snoozing peacefully on a bed of benefit cheques. They were lucky to get out of the system when they did- soon the supermarkets won’t even exist and everyone will do all their shopping online anyway. For now, its still mostly trusty items- books, music, flights, electronic equipment and the like- but soon enough food, clothes and everything else will fall into line.

Going out is no fun on your own really and, since ever increasing amounts of our socialising is done via Facebook or other similar networks on the Internet, spending time with real people seems so messy and awkward. What do I wear? Should I arrive at 8, just before, or should I be ‘fashionably late’? None of this matters in the virtual world, nobody really knows who you are anyway. This is extremely fortunate as your online persona, along with everybody else’s, is much more selfish and ruthless. You would never dream of getting up from a table where you are having a conversation with an acquaintance, walking out of the room and going to watch a film alone, but on your laptop it seems perfectly alright to do essentially just that.

The biggest loss for me as a result of our world becoming more technologically advanced and dependent on machines and computers is that of the many different identities and cultures which have basically molded into one. Almost wherever you go in the world, the streets look disturbingly similar, everybody speaks English, the teenagers all thijk McDonalds is the best food their city has to offer, and they only briefly pause their iPods to tell you so (if you’re lucky to get event that much out of them). Its a giant victory for those trying to eradicate national stereotypes, but otherwise a bleak situation.

There are advantages naturally- our damage to the environment through excessive use of fossil fuels is much reduced if we no longer need to leave our homes, for one. Why bother going off to see other countries? They are no different to home, just less convenient. Also, if you sit at home all day, eyes fixed on the monitor, then its only really your eyes which are at risk of damage. Chances of physical or emotional hurt of any kind are radically reduced.

On balance though, give me a bit of human contact back. People are more interesting than machines despite, no because of, their mistakes and unpredictability

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