Recently, I noticed an exchange between two young boys in front of me at an event I attended. They were both about 10 years old. The boy in front of me was playing his Nintendo DS video game and the other boy, who also had a DS game, became interested, moving in closer to get a better look at the game. Not ONE word was exchanged between the two during this entire time, even though they sat within inches of each other. Instead, the second boy began a “Pictochat” session with the first boy, who reciprocated. They drew silly pictures and wrote messages back and forth, laughing the whole time, without any verbal communication at all.
Granted, it was a very cute moment, but also one which led me to consider how different the world is today than the world I grew up in. When I was a child, we ran around outside until the streetlights came on. Occasionally we played with electronic gadgets but for the most part our play was imaginative and involved bikes, bats, balls, toys and lots of running, laughing and talking. We interacted with each other. We played and we talked. I know that kids today still do all of these things too, but as technology evolves, it takes a lot of that real human interaction time with it.
It seems to me that today we are, as a society, more comfortable communicating electronically than we are with talking and exchanging ideas face to face. We text, email and chat and we use social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter to communicate with friends, neighbors and relatives who live just minutes away from us. These utilities are useful and fun, don’t get me wrong, but we are losing the element of humanity when we use them almost exclusively.
So how do we break out of our technological “comfort zones”? For starters, I encourage everyone to get out there…join a book discussion group, take a class. Go out into the world and strike up a conversation with someone new today; someone whom you’ve never spoken with before. Maybe pay them a compliment or ask for their opinion on something…just initiate an interaction and see where that takes you. Your reward for making the effort may just be a new friend!