Have you ever posted a reaction to something you’ve witnessed first-hand, on social media, whilst remaining completely poker-faced and unaffected in real life?
Social media has bestowed onto us the almighty power to connect with people, instantly, and with a much wider reach than we’ve ever had before. We can log on and post our every thought and feeling, for better or worse; it’s keeping us together and tearing us apart, like remakes of 80’s movies or a Kanye West/Taylor Swift conflict.
But are we more comfortable interacting with each other through a screen than we are face to face? And what does this mean going forward, in a world where technology has, in many instances, taken the place of physical human interaction?
With the help of apps you can dine in a restaurant, pay, and leave without having to say more than ten words to the waiter, and it’s not uncommon to see couples sitting through meals on their phones, taking pictures of their food, the cutlery, their outfits, the waiter’s outfits, and everything else in between, whilst scarcely engaging with each other.
Will we choose to engage instead, in a sort of robotic rhetoric while continuing to suppress our intrinsic emotions?
Something extraordinary happened a while ago that led me down this train of thought: I saw a man at 8.45am, on a weekday, in a three-piece navy blue suit, karate kick his way onto the tube. To emphasise the power of the kick he yelled, “HI-YA” before sitting down to read his newspaper.
My immediate thought was, what the hell is going on here? Can’t you just karate-kick in your head like the rest of us?
Then, after I glanced around for someone to share a laugh with and realised that everybody was staring awkwardly at their feet or at their phones as if a guy hadn’t just karate kicked his way onto the bloody tube, I thought, oh! I’m being pranked! Am I being pranked? Yes!
I became less concerned with the karate-kicking businessman than I was with everyone’s reaction to him; something happened in defiance of socially acceptable behaviour, and worse than people looking appalled –which would’ve at least been some kind of reaction- nobody wanted to show any emotion at all…
And that’s weird right?
It’s this kind of thing that makes me wish we would look outside ourselves more.
Like the waiter in my local coffee shop said after I apologised to him for having to endure me sobbing quietly over the phone, “We’re not robots.”
One more time for the people in the cheap seats in the back: WE’RE. NOT. ROBOTS!
Now I’m not saying to start dropping martial arts moves on your daily commute because you watched Daredevil or a Bruce Lee movie the previous night…
Or that you should start squawking in public with as much ferocity as your lungs will allow because the spirit and soul of Beyonce is in you…
Just that maybe we should be less afraid to connect with the people around us: to share a laugh with the stranger across from you when something undeniably funny happens instead of staying stone-faced while you document it on social media with an LOL and one of those crying laughing emoji’s (you know the one)!
It shouldn’t be weird to say, “Hi” to the guy you’ve seen for the past four years, grabbing the same meal deal as you, in Tesco at lunch.
As for crying, openly acknowledging someone in their most vulnerable state can feel like an intrusion. Let’s keep it real though, there’s a part of us, arguably the most dominant part, that’s more concerned with how uncomfortable it makes us feel as opposed to not wanting to embarrass them.
So in the words of the Four Tops, “Reach ouuut!” It’s these small interactions we shy away from that could potentially change the course of someone’s day, and isn’t that a more rewarding way to live anyway?
Featured on Hiive (Knowledge)