A man lies in a hospital bed. He is dying. His son’s hands rest on his shoulders as they stare into each other’s eyes. The man realises he has just taken his final breath. His eyes widen as his consciousness fades. The son keeps his hands where they are. His eyes remain locked onto his father’s. The moment is both transcendental and hyper-real. He is the last thing his father will ever see. His father dies just as the son comprehends this rare privilege, his father’s final gift; a profound truth of love and connection. It is the 22nd of October, 2006 and the time is 5:43am.
It’s seven years later and the connection mantra is unrelenting. We are constantly told why we need to connect, where to connect and with whom to connect. Social media rules and the one with the most friends and/or followers wins the prize. Your connection might be lightning-fast but have you checked the depth? Here are two questions: how many of your friends on Facebook do you actually know? By this I mean people with whom you have had real-world social interactions. Next question: do you consider the first question of any consequence?
Please do not think for a minute that I’m some kind of perverse Luddite. Right now I’m sitting in a council library and making use of their wi-fi in order to write this post. I’m merely pausing to consider how the technology a society creates shapes the future of the society that creates it. While we may think that we’re more connected than previous generations, psychologist and author Sherry Turkle believes this is not the case.
– Okay, so how many of you texted during this presentation?
I can’t help but think that part of what Professor Turkle describes echoes some of the social elements outlined in Aldous Huxley‘s ‘Brave New World‘. In particular, how Huxley’s characters are discouraged from forming deep emotional relationships or spending time alone in quiet contemplation. While these social elements are actively enforced in Huxley’s novel, I wonder if we are passively allowing for their gradual inculcation due to our unchecked appetite for new technology.
– Is this the perfect gift for your grandmother when you can no longer find the time to visit?
– Your doppelganger will be ready to pick up in the morning.
Most of us would use computers at work. Tablets and mobile phones are commonplace. The question is, how far are you willing to allow technology to intrude upon your personal time? Have you given yourself over to it completely? Could you go for a half-hour walk without your phone? How has it affected your creative self?
At our house we have sacred Sundays. Computers and mobile phones do not get used before midday. Then there are days when we leave everything at home and enjoy an old-fashioned picnic: fresh food, good wine, a blanket and a book which one of us will read to the other. For my genius girlfriend and I, it’s a chance to slow down, recharge and contemplate the direction we are taking in this life; a profound truth of love and connection.