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Personal relationships needed in high-tech society

Personal relationships needed in high-tech society
Personal relationships needed in high-tech society
Judy O'Bannon

Hurrah for Valentine’s Day! Cast off the notion that it is just a bit of romantic nonsense. Showing friendship and love to others is not just good common sense, but scientifically recommended to improve your health as well as your pocketbook and safety.

It was way back in 1982 that I first heard the concept of “High Tech — High Touch.” The preeminent social forecaster John Naisbitt wrote a book titled “Megatrends” dealing with the emerging geopolitical world. It opened up a new way of thinking for me. I had just been exposed to a batch of developing high-tech gadgets: cell phones and computers. Beyond me, I thought.

Little did I know that our whole world would expand with this new tech age. If one wanted to be a part of the game, you had to join the expanding capacity to communicate that lay ahead.

Naisbitt saw that impersonal technology, as it took over our way of living, needed to be accompanied by personal and human activities.

If this COVID-19 pandemic has done nothing else, it has emphasized this theory. Technology can both divide us and bring us together. It is how we use it that will determine our prosperity as a people.

Watch the “Social Dilemma” documentary on Netflix. It is a complicated piece but, what I did understand scared the socks off me. See how social media has shaped the political, racial and religious situations during the past years. Exposed are some troublesome, unintended consequences of technology. No one set out to divide the citizens of our country, but the system of the computer did just that.

I think of a computer as a vehicle that stores, sorts and dispenses information. It is in the sorting of ideas and who they are sent to that causes the divide. It gathers data on what we choose to see on social media and then sends us more of the same. Do you wonder how those who think differently than you do about the past presidential election keep clinging to their beliefs? Through social media, they have been sent exclusively the facts or concepts that reinforce their preconceived ideas. Social media is not subjected to fact checking its content. It has no accountability. There is no critical thinking allowed in a system like this.

We are additionally separated from others due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists tell us to stay away from people as much as we can and to cover our faces with masks. It is a lonely place in such a world. Psychologists, teachers and parents are reporting depression and anger in kids since schools have been closed. Business people working from home through computers speak of depression and loneliness. Folks just want to be able to hug loved ones, shake hands with neighbors and respond to other human beings in the flesh. We are social animals and need to live and operate within a community, up close and personal.

Hopefully, with each developing wall that divides us, creative and motivated people will explore turning technology into a tool to bring us back together. High touch means the involvement of personal attention and services. It brings trust and a feeling of belonging to otherwise impersonal interactions between people. “Facetiming” relatives is often much more fulfilling than a written text message. Zoom conferences really get communal interaction better than simply computer statements. Musicians have used the internet to join together in concerts presented to isolated people.

We must stretch our imaginations and minds to grow more avenues for human interaction in this massive separation that has been imposed on us.

For me, it begins in the mind and heart of each of us. We as human beings do not automatically want to hurt others. If, however, we come to believe that folks who are different from us are bad, we rationalize the permission to hate and inflict violence against them. When this tendency seeps in, we tend to dehumanize others, which justifies our distrust and dislike for them. With words, images and actions, we create in our minds and that of others that such people are monsters with whom we cannot mingle.

On the contrary, when we do things with others and get to know them, our trust and cooperation grows.

Valentine’s Day reminds us that love and personal relationships are a thing to treasure. Try extending greeting to strangers, warm smiles to all and share a moment with your neighbors.

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