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In her discussion about time travel and whether or not we are moving to identifying ourselves as Cyborgs, author Amber Case introduced the idea of “ambient intimacy” at a recent TED conference.

Now here’s a nice buzz word that captures the phenomena we’re all witnessing as we trade real world interactions for digital communication. From face to face to avatars and character strings – this habit begs the questions of what are we missing?

“One needn’t look much further than the person across from you on the metro or cafe to see the impact these devices have on the way we communicate with each other. We consult our devices at all times. Not just for directions, but also socially, during family gatherings, meet-ups with friends, even on dates.”


In contrast to man-made gases and global warming, our tech devices and current modes of communication may be adding to a global chilling of our most personal relationships.

Perhaps we’re not only affecting our environment with man-made machines, but one might argue that our technology is depleting our most basic desire for happiness.

Tossed about in a sea of dreams and ambition, our connected generation has been lulled into the habit of text messages, email, tweets and text messages. We’ve dumbed down the conversation into a haiku of misinterpreted expression.

After eons of evolving a brain to adopt to social connections, we’re giving it up to technology and I believe we’re making a mistake.

Recently, I’m discouraged by my own choice to text even my best of friends and hopeful acquaintances and for the first time, I’m starting to question my own shallow overtures to culture deep relationships.

It wasn’t that long ago our telephones (the ones with the cords) were the device we used to connect with those around us. Still a technology that transports us from one place to another, at least the form factor was rich in personality. Words, sentences and conversations could ramble playfully and spontaneously to a rich experience. Even the silence would provide a background for building a close, personal and trusting relationship.

One might argue that our desire to communicate with even more vapid communication forms may ally with the cliche’ of ‘frog in the boiling pot.” Some authors and social and behavioral experts argue that we may find ourselves ‘Alone Together‘ slumped in a therapists chair wondering why we’re so damn unhappy.

Bruce Hood describes in his treaty on the self, “The Self Illusion” how we define ourselves from the womb, suggesting that we’re immediately programmed to mimic when we enter the world. Infants seek out faces and express themselves in copycat routines to thrills of joy as we make connections.

Our long incubation period arguably responds to touch, voice and even scent as the new self forms. I can only imagine the well being of an infant who finds himself one day talking to avatars and faux connections with attendant screens. Sounds like a good script for a new sci-fi film.

Somewhere along the way, we are enraptured by “the mirror” and all of a sudden our self is perceived in relationship to others when we compare ourselves. Of course, that’s where the trouble really begins and perhaps this is where the need to seek out technology as we begin to compare our devices too.

It’s here that our own worst enemy enters the life path, but that’s a topic for another conversation.

For the moment, I’m vexed with apathy that my own laziness and perhaps my fears are what keep me texting, emailing and using our frail forms of communication. They’re easier – non threatening and that’s where we are losing our courage, our humanity. We’re starting to act like machines now who seek efficiencies over human qualities. We’re not getting better at communicating – at best, we’re getting lazy and then where’s the intimacy?

Technology has its own agenda and I’m convinced after years of addiction that the underbelly of technology is disguised to rob of us our most valuable gift – time. Whether or not it’s expanding our humanity or dumbing it down, I’m not ready to side on that question.

Nevertheless, I’ve got to do some soul searching. I like text messages. I’m hopeless on my job without email, but let’s be honest. There’s nothing like being together in real time, face to face and learning to love each other for better or worse.