In a piece about boxing by the excellent Janan Ganesh (“Boxing’s centre of gravity has shifted east”, FT Weekend, 17/18 September 2016) is the following gem: “The modern world has been a disaster for water-cooler moments and a miracle for personal immersion in a chosen interest”.
That nugget neatly sums up the apparently inexorable march of our declining sociability in the 21st century. It is now so easy to find the news or information you want, and share it through “social media” rather than conversing about it orally with another human being, that the art and value of face-to-face social interaction may be at greater risk than ever before.
How many people did you see today with their heads adorned with some form of listening device, instantly delivering their selected entertainment or information while simultaneously cutting them off from interaction with those around them? (They probably had their faces glued to a screen of some size, too.) I feel less inclined to address my usual cheery “Good morning!” to individuals who apparently don’t want to acknowledge the existence of their fellow people, and a small exchange of common courtesy is hence lost.
The technology at our fingertips today is a wonder indeed, and as a sixty-something I heartily applaud the progress my generation has seen (after all, when I was a child, the majority of homes in Britain did not even have their own telephone line). But we owe it to ourselves, and future generations, not to allow the priceless asset of real – as opposed to virtual – human contact to be eroded.
At the risk of stating the obvious, 21st-century Man is a far more advanced being than our predecessors; but, as this clever illustration by panco worryingly shows, in one respect we may be in danger of coming full circle.