What an amazing world of technology we live in! Thinking back to as early as 20 or 30 years ago, could we ever have imagined that we would all be walking around with our own personal phone? Did we even begin to think that our phones would become our computers, remembering that 30 years ago, not many people even had computers!
Along came the internet, email, sms and it was quite thrilling to be able to type a message to someone. Suddenly you had a better way of doing business, keeping a digital paper trail of all communication with colleagues and clients. SMS was initially limited to a certain amount of characters, I can’t quite remember the total. And it was that if we wanted to send a longer message, we did it through 3 or 4 short messages. Around the same time, chat rooms were created online for the lost and the lonely – designed to bring together people to talk to others about things that interested them. It certainly had its advantages for those who were house-bound through illness and the like. Gradually digital communication crept into our lives taking various forms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Video and a whole new world has been opened to us.
Now some catastrophic event happening on one side of the world, can be communicated across the globe within seconds. If we think about how the news of the death of Princess Diana spread across the world through radio, television and print media, can you just imagine how fast it would have reached people today.
But, what has all this opportunity for digital communication done to us as people. We now find ourselves in a world where people are truly struggling to communicate. Rather ironic when you consider how many more opportunities exist for communication. Developing out of this digital era, is a very different human experience. An inability to exist without a cell phone, stress beyond belief when the power is down and a way for people to hide behind their screens, badmouthing, judging and bringing other people down. We are evolving into a people who care more about how many likes their postings get on social media, who care more about how many people watched their video on social media and who place so much weight on the opinions of people they don’t know, they’ve never met and never will.
Young people are now suffering from depression and a sense of not being worthy more than ever before. All because of the world of social media that has become so important to them. It has also become so much easier to bully others, again with younger people, in a way that is relentless and has resulted in young people ending their lives because of the constant harassment.
We are becoming a nation who are unable to sit face to face and talk. We have no way of striking up a conversation with our own loved ones and friends, let alone with a perfect stranger. People are no longer going out and making new friends. Friends are made over social media. I’m not sure if I’m just completely old fashioned, but I have a very different definition of what friends are. For me, friends are people that I actually have met in the flesh and developed a meaningful relationship with. For our younger generation, they are just someone at the other end of a digital post. Sadly we even have people supposedly falling in love with someone who they have never met in the physical and even going as far as marrying each other without ever having actually met! How crazy is that!
What has become of the physical relationship? My understanding of our development as spiritual beings, is to enter into relationships with others. And my understanding is that these relationships exist within the real world, not somewhere out there in cyberspace. Because behind your screen, you can create a persona, and a lot of people do this. One only has to look at the various postings that people choose to put up that creates an impression of who they are and what their life is like, when in reality, the truth of their lives is very different. I think we need to be very cautious of taking what is essentially a curated collection of images and messages, and seeing that as the sum total of the human being that we’re connecting with on social media.
For me, it is vital that we form relationships with people in the physical. That we actually get to know these people and through physical contact, get a more reflective insight into who they actually are.
We are living in an era of total disconnect, separation and dehumanization of people. This is what makes it so easy for us to see the worst in others. When we separate ourselves from the human aspects of another human being, it is so easy to judge and so easy to say hurtful things and to be outraged and offended by others. Xenophobia and wars is what arises from disconnect, separation and dehumanization – we only need to look to our own country here in South Africa, to see how much xenophobia has happened over the last few years and to our beautiful continent, Africa, to see the xenophobia and genocide. One only needs to look at the holocaust to see the breadth and depth of genocide as a result of dehumanization.
Surely it’s time that we all see where we’re going and surely it’s time that we catch a wake up call before it’s too late. It’s time for us to bring back humanizing each other. It’s time for us force ourselves to go out into the world and make human contact with other human beings. When we do this, we will find ourselves bringing love back into the world and love is what we need to make this world better for us and for those to come – after all, you too will be one of those to come at some point in time!