“We’re off to the Cinema…” my then teenage girlfriend at the time shouted to her Father. “…which way are you going?” boomed the dreaded reply from the living room. As a professional driver, his only method of interaction ensured we missed 15mins of Lethal Weapon 3 by supplying an excruciatingly detailed route… I’m talking seasonally affected landmarks…
Post TomTom, I imagine he has been locked in a muted world of road furniture the past couple of decades.
Not only has technology changed the way we communicate, it has also relieved us from losing copious amounts of our precious time engaging with one another about the usual, utterly dreary topics. Lovely day! #facepalm.
Using any form of public transport without headphones now is simply inconceivable. Imagine having to listen to another groups conversation or, heaven forbid, leaving yourself open to being spoken to…maybe that’s why Apple paid $3.2bn for Beats?
Indeed, human interaction has been in a steady decline for decades but like everything today it’s now accelerating. It’s entirely appropriate to email your colleague 2ft. away, or to argue on Twitter with another delegate at a conference sitting two rows behind you.
Only one in three people speak with their neighbours - preferring to stand on a rake with bare feet, than by the fence and engage in banal small talk.
People opt to queue for the self service rather than grunt at the cashiers.
Can you remember a time when you used to pick up a phone, not knowing who it was and say; “Hullo?”. What risks were we taking back then! It could have been anybody? The call button has been relegated off many a home screen. Missed calls auto generate texts, saying “Sorry, don’t do voicemails” - meaning interactions can be limited to 140 characters.
Selective anonymity means we can now choose when we want to interact and when we want technology to face it up on our behalf instead. It makes being social far less invasive, if not strangely, much more explicit.
Yes, with the reality of real life being mind numbingly dull it’s no wonder that the world embraced social networks with such vigour.
Sadly however our, now established, cultured networks of ‘friends’ have also become predictably boring.
Bombarded by 4500 baby pictures, subjected to intimate details of peoples everyday tribulations, every landmark they have viewed, from every angle and in every photo filter - even what they had for breakfast?! We now crave random interaction. Desire serendipity - we want to get lost, discover a secret - have a real-life exchange with a total stranger.
But how do you do that? Have you tried it? Get on an empty bus or train and plonk yourself down next to someone - see what happens. Watch them freak out.
Indeed sitting anywhere is hard… Where would I choose to sit in this picture?
Do I sit next to the lady? Certainly not. Far too intimate. I’d be invading her personal space and we’d both be uncomfortable with the prospect of a mindless conversation.
One seat down? No. I’d be on the same side as her, we can still see each other. It would be awkward. I might consider this seat if some of the others were full, but there are still better options in this scenario.
The seat directly behind her? Definitely not. We’d be able to hear each other breathe and there’s a slight possibility we might bang heads.
The correct answer, of course, is the nearest seat on the empty side - as far away as possible. This reduces any likelihood of social interaction to an absolute minimum.
Better still, don’t sit down at all.
Weird thing is, we are probably following each others board on Pinterest.
It’s the same at conferences (aren’t we all here to meet people, people!?!), much like in a cinema, it’s fascinating watching how an auditorium fills. As if in a men’s urinal, people will strategically sit as far away from anyone else - preferably on separate rows - as possible. As the room busies the remaining single seats create a game of hopscotch for the brave and a crowd at the back for the introvert. (Idea: Invent a system that only unlocks an adjoining seat when someone sits down…)
Meanwhile we are all checking-in on social accounts to let everyone who isn’t attending know that we are…
So, predictably virtual or standard reality? I’m not bothered - just as long as I’m dictating when, where and who, it works for me - and most others.
Oh my god, some weirdo has just rang the doorbell. Hide.
Find your next job with techworld jobs