Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Automating People

One evening, my partner and I were about to sit down for our evening meal when the phone rang. We have a rule that we do not answer the phone while we are eating so we allowed the call to transfer to the answer machine. The call was from British Gas, unfortunately it was an automated voice message regarding an appointment for our boiler check. Only the day before, my partner had received a similar call regarding a hospital appointment. Press this button if yes, press this button if no, confirm by pressing this button, it’s all so very impersonal.

Children are spending more and more time in the house in front of computer screens and games consoles. Their world is depleting into a world not far off from make-believe.

What has happened to the personal touch?

As someone who ministers to a congregation, human contact is a vital part of us learning how to live together. It’s how we show we care. By showing we care, others see or feel the advantage of caring for each other. By caring for each other we become more willing to sort out problems and disagreements when they occur. By being able to sort out problems we avoid arguments and become a closer community. One step closer to love and harmony.

In our communication with each other, we depend on other things like honesty, forgiveness, understanding but these are often projected in body language more than the words we say.

Every form of communication has become vital to the speed at which we now choose to live our lives. The telephone has become part of our everyday lives and keeps people in touch with each other when there is a distance between them. Of course, the telephone has the advantage of voice, that we can hear from someone’s tone the feeling behind their words.

Email, text, Social networking sites, MSN are all great forms of communication when used correctly.

A colleague recently suggested that pastoral care could be achieved using the internet. After my disagreement he was most ‘put out’. His insistence was down to providing pastoral care by email to someone who lived in another country. I don't deny that, if this person only had my colleague as a point of contact, the emails were probably very much appreciated and the contact helpful. This is not the perfect situation, it can never take the place of a human being’s presence and being able to read compassion and love in someone’s eyes.

That the written word can be so easily misconstrued makes the idea of trying to achieve friendships and other relationships via email a dangerous game and one I have recently found, to my cost, can be abused.

Have we reached the point where the technology we have at our fingertips to make our lives simpler is now being abused and taking the place of the kindly voice, the gentle eyes, the supportive embrace, the compassionate face of a human being.

There is little we can do to change the money saving automated phone-calls, much as I dislike them. Many computer capabilities, including webcams and emails do keep many families in touch with each other when there are thousands of miles that separate them. I can find a lot of good things about technology that I don’t want us to turn our backs on it at all. What I want is for us to remember the value of other human beings in our lives. That your presence in someone’s life has a value beyond anything the wizzkids can dream up. We learn so many skills from each other as well as gaining a spiritual nourishment and bonding when others are close to us. It’s why we are such social animals, we need each other.

At present, our children are destined to face adulthood where they won’t know how to behave with a real human being and will only know communication through the written word. Instead of imagination being bicycle rides and dens, it’ll be the aggressive fighting seen on their games console which they depend on to live out the imagination of others.

Remember the value of humanity.
We live together for good reason.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post.

    I agree with everything you said. I try to get my children outside as much as possible and the tv/computer/games console usage is limited and I plan to keep it that way.

    I've seen what technology can do to friendships and the ability to communicate in person.