Is Personal Interaction A Vanishing Practice?

As our technology has gotten more advanced, in many ways we are using it to replace human interaction. What is it costing us?

Under the right circumstances, you could go for days, or possibly even weeks, without being in the same room with someone else. After all, you can order your groceries online and have them delivered to you. Many jobs can be done remotely. Just about anything you need can be purchased through the internet.

Even if you decide to leave your house, interaction can be kept to a minimum. You can avoid any awkward chit chat with grocery store employees by opting for the self-checkout line. Wearing headphones or ear buds ensures people will not talk to you.

We’ve even, as a society, decided that a voice-to-voice phone call is too much. Civilized people text instead.

Even sex is being configured to take place alone. Porn is available to anyone at any time, and now we even have remarkably realistic sex dolls or robots.

The reason for our self-imposed isolation is fairly obvious: interacting is hard! And it can be awkward at times. Everyone has their own preferences. Some people like to talk about anything and everything; others are quiet. One person might be a hugger, while another doesn’t even like to shake hands. Maybe you don’t know what to say most of the time.

As more and more our lives are spent minimizing the time spent with others, are we getting out of the practice of making small talk? Is it harder to bond with someone now, compared to a decade ago? Is personal interaction a vanishing practice? How can we engage more with others?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? How can we encourage meaningful conversation? Do you feel lonely? What role does community play in your life?

What Role Does Community Play In Your Life?

A vibrant community is one of the most valuable assets a person can have. What role does community play in your life?

As the saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” The word “together” could mean with family, or friends, or neighbors.

These are all types of community to which you might belong. Examples of other such groups might include your church, a book club, or a recreational sports league (among many, many others).

A more far-ranging definition of community, however, would include people you don’t necessarily know personally. Think of someone, for instance, who owns a small business locally, even if you don’t peruse it yourself. That store is an important part of your local economy, providing services to others, even if not you.

There are also community events. These can provide an opportunity for individuals to meet and mingle, sharing interests and building bonds. Such events might be organized around music, movies, artistic expression, food, or many others.

Including the groups and events that are going on all around you at various times, where do they fit in your life? Are you active in your community, or is it largely irrelevant to you? Do you share a sense of identity with your neighborhood, district, or town? Or is your sense of identity more personal and individual?

In short, what does your community do for you, and what do you do for your community?

Related questions: What makes a community? What are you doing to build community? What are our responsibilities to others?

Are You Politically Active?

Government, either local or national, can play a significant role in your life. Do you take part in that political process? Are you politically active?

In the United States, there is currently a hotly-contested presidential race, and in many countries all around the world there are several high-profile elections taking place.

Even beyond that, there are almost always local elections happening wherever you happen to be. These can influence issues from setting school policies to trash pickup schedules.

At what level are you involved in this process?

One way to be involved is simply to vote. Depending on your community, there are are possibly a couple of times a year you can show up to vote in local, state, or federal elections.

Beyond that, you can be informed when you vote. Knowing something about the candidates shows a certain level of civic engagement. Are there debates to watch and/or attend? Are there voting records available? Do you talk to other potential voters to get their opinions?

The more engaged person may even join a campaign or try to influence the outcome of a particular election. That might include making phone calls, knocking on doors, putting up lawn signs, or donating money. If you believe in a particular cause or candidate, that might be for you.

Or you could even run for office yourself, or otherwise work for the government. There are hundreds of thousands of people serving in various roles like serving on town committees or doing research or working at a school. There are many ways to be involved, regardless of experience or skill set.

Or, of course, you might not be engaged in any way at all. Each of these kinds of involvement takes some level of time or effort. It can be difficult, if you have a busy life, to find time in your schedule to participate.

How politically active are you?

Related questions: Do you have a plan to vote? What role should government play in our lives? What are our responsibilities to others?

How Can We Make The Internet A Better Place?

While the Internet has many good features, it is also a place filled with people behaving badly. How can we make it better?

The Internet is amazing. We carry in our pocket a portal to most of our species’ accumulated knowledge, as well as a way to communicate with people from around the world in real time.

However, there are times when the Internet is not a good place to be.

While social interaction might be good in theory, in many cases, online behavior can be shockingly negative. People can be insulting, dismissive, and just generally rude. Some share personal information like addresses, pictures, or videos not meant for public consumption. The comments section in online newspapers, message boards, and social media sites can be toxic.

There is also the threat of scammers, people looking for any opportunity to steal your money and/or identity, or to infect your computer with viruses. You have to be hyper-vigilant about what links you follow, in emails or on websites.

There are also programmed ‘bots that pretend to be individuals. These can be created and run by agents of foreign governments, who are looking to spread misinformation and sow distrust and division in everyday life.

On top of that, there are companies that collect our personal information, which then can be sold to someone who might use it to try and manipulate us.

With all of these bad actors, the Internet can provide an unpleasant experience.

However, there are some places on the web that aren’t like this. Those sites provide a much better overall experience, and might even fulfill some of the potential for positive change that the Internet offers.

How might we make more places like this? Can we curb the trolls and scammers, and encourage collaboration and creativity? How can we make the Internet a better place?

Related questions: How can you be more responsible online? Why does social media often bring out the worst in us? How can we encourage meaningful conversation?