Recently at a dinner, I observed what’s become a pretty common sight these days – a boy of 12 or 13 kept playing with his iPhone throughout dinner.
Now that probably isn’t such a bad thing for some people except that everyone at the table was doing it, too!
This scenario got me thinking – the more I look at the way technology has progressed, the more I am convinced that human beings actually don’t really like each other.
In fact, it seems that unless we really need to deal with another human being directly, we wouldn’t do so.
Now, hear me out before you talk about the growth of social networks and all that. I’m talking about having conversations, laughing and interacting with each other face-to-face. Social networks seem to be a way of escaping all that. It is much easier to summon up the courage to poke fun at someone online, than to do it in real life, isn’t it?
But the thought goes deeper than that. If we think about it, it’s a perpetual “chicken-and-egg” situation. Sociologists have fumbled around this question for decades – does technology evolve according to human needs, or do humans evolve around the technology that’s available?
If technology does follow human beings, it’s a pretty clear conclusion that we don’t much like each other very much. Just look at the technology we’ve created.
We built ATM machines so we don’t have to deal with human tellers any more. We started online services so people don’t have to get out and do their groceries. We use e-mail so that we can tell someone things we would not say to his or her face.

Technology plays a very big part in the way we communicate today. However, a real-life connection is still important.

Best of all, we created all kinds of robots that can take the trouble out of having to deal with other human beings.
Yes, I know, it’s all about the convenience and efficiency. I do a fair bit of “armchair shopping” myself too. But in the mix and the headlong rush to be super efficient, and to use technology to the maximum, we’re cutting out the middle man – humans.
Like the sociologist questioned: “Could it be that we human beings subconsciously don’t really like each other very much?”
A technologist once wrote that the “objective of technology seems to be about replacing humans with machines.” It’s a scary thought, and if you’ve watched Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator movies, you know exactly how scary that can be.
Perhaps the reason is because it’s simpler to deal with a machine than people.
There was a time when heading down to the coffeshop for teh tarik and wantan noodles in the morning meant saying “hi” to the guy bringing you your drink and     getting a smile in return. You’d also spare some time for banter, and hear about how his kids are doing.
Today, when I step into a cafe, the feeling I get is a sullen silence as everyone seems to be engrossed with their iPad or laptop or phone.
We’re losing a part of being human, and it’s almost as if we don’t really want to interact with each other. This week, we celebrate Hari Raya, and it’s an excellent opportunity to go out and visit your friends – Malay, Chinese, Indian, it doesn’t matter – in their homes. We’re all humans. Let’s not just use technology to drop a “Selamat Hari Raya” post on our friend’s Facebook wall as seems to be the in thing to do today.
Rather, let’s rebuild that human connection. If you have friends to visit, don’t just stay at home and stare at your PC. Get up, get out, and let’s reconnect. Be human again.

David Lian would love to say Selamat Hari Raya and Happy Merdeka Day to everyone, even though he wishes he can do it in person (but it’s just not possible). Find him on Twitter at @davidlian.

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