Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Is there anybody out there?

I'm no technophobe. I love technology. When it works, it's an absolute marvel: it helps me reach out and make contact with people all over the world; it lets me get things done quickly and easily; it enables me to keep up-to-date with my family in the UK; it allows me to rapidly correct my online mistakes (hopefully before anyone else notices them); it lets me deal with some of the more boring aspects of daily life at the touch of a button; and it has proved to be a valuable work tool and even a source of income.

I spend at least 8 hours a day at my PC, tapping away, getting my work done, chatting to colleagues around the world, bashing out ideas, smoothing out agreements and generally making my presence known from Houston to Tokyo (and many points in between). I have long passed that stage when the Internet scared me stupid and I can now html with the best of them (well, maybe not the best - I guess I can html with the average).

But it's no substitute for real life.

Nothing drives me further up the wall than meeting up with friends you haven't seen for ages, only to sit there sipping your coffee patiently as they risk tendon damage by tapping away at their mobile phone sending out endless badly-spelled and inane text messages to someone (anyone?) they'd apparently rather communicate with than me, even though I'm sitting right in front of them.

Or when my son meets up with pals he hasn't seen for weeks, only to spend the next 3 hours each staring at the screen of their PSPs or whatever the latest "must have" is.

Then there is the ubiquitous Blue Tooth ear appendage thingie. It seems that anybody that is anybody (OK, that makes me a nobody, but I can live with that) has to have this latest accessory that screams "Hey, look everybody! I've got a gizmo stuck on my ear 'cos I'm so busy and important. Next stop, brain implant."

And when someone who calls themselves my friend sends me an automatically-generated generic text message from their mobile phone instead of actually remembering it's my birthday and calling me to say Many Happy Returns, I'd much rather they didn't bother.

Technology is a tool, something we should use to enrich and ease our lives - not replace them. But we human beings are fatally flawed and we just don't to know when to stop, do we?

Thanks to the massive splurge of easily-accessible communications technology in the past couple of years, we've seem to have forgotten the joys of actual human contact.

You know, the simple stuff that can make life so much better. When you meet a friend, actually sit down and talk to them, look them in the eye, listen to what they say, laugh at their jokes (even if they're not funny), offer your shoulder if they need to cry, take the trouble to suss out how life is treating them and what they need from you - their friend.

And if you can't do all of that without sneaking a peek at your mobile, switch the damn thing off!

When you walk down the street, nod and smile at those people you see every day but you never acknowledge. Maybe the next day, they may greet you with a shy "Good morning" and - who knows - before you know it, you may have made a new friend!

When you buy something from a shop or supermarket, look the cashier in the eye as he or she hands you your change and say "thank you" - and mean it. That simple gesture costs you nothing, but it could make all the difference to their hum-drum day.

I like people, I really do. Though there are plenty I can happily live without, and plenty more I'm sure aren't crazy about me, I really like folk. In all their glory, with all their faults and failings, warts and all, it is our fellow people that give life the colour it needs. Personally, I don't dream in black-and-white, so I certainly don't want to live in monochrome.

And that's why I get so upset at everyday scenes of people sitting right next to each other but failing to make any meaningful contact thanks to the demands of their mobile phones, Blackberries or PSPs.

So, I have decided to start my own little campaign to get people back in touch with one another.

I was going to call it Touch: The Campaign for Human Contact but that didn't grab the imagination of my Other Half, so I am in the market for a better name. If any of you out there (is there anybody out there?) have any bright ideas, I'd love to hear from you.

And when all else fails - smile.


  1. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for this post. Quite honestly. I may be glued to the computer for a set amount of time, but after that-- I like talking to people, and cannot for the life of me understand why in heck they feel the need to text while sitting and talking to me. It's horrible. And ya know what? I'm only 17, and think this! :)

    Be sure and stop by! And would you like to exchange links?


  2. Hehehe, thanks for the reply! ANd yes, of course I know you're following me-- why else would I be blessed with so many comments from you? :)
    I meant in exchanging links that you would put my blog in the little 'blog a lot' area on the side of your page and I would do the same in my blog. Would you like to do that? :P