We need to think about the kind of connections we want to have with each other. We are lonely, but afraid of intimacy. Our little electronic and social media devices are so powerful that they not only change what we do but who we are. They bring the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. I think that we are setting ourselves up for trouble. We are getting used to a new way of being alone together, but, also, be elsewhere at the same time. We want to control where we focus our attention. People are hiding from each other even though they are constantly connected. Because of these devices our view of what we consider a relationship has changed. We have Facebook, Twitter, texting, email, and numerous other social media devices. People are texting at funerals (seriously?). Talking on the phone in the bathroom. Befriending strangers on Facebook. Yet, where is the intimacy? What has happened to the human touch?
In a recent study, there was an old woman pouring her heart out to a robotic seal (paro). It had white fur with big eyes and long eye lashes. The seal made comforting sounds when the woman bared her soul to the tiny robot. Somehow she was comforted by this robot. It made her feel understood, but the machine understood nothing. The old lady was surrounded by people who could have given her this kind of comfort, but opted not to. However, they cheered a connection between a human and a machine and they thought about all of the possibilities for those lonely people who have no one to share their innermost thoughts with. We expect more from technology than from each other. At end of her life, she deserves to have people around who knows her story and can learn from her. Can a device do that for anyone? What has become of her value?
A couple of years ago, when I was going through my divorce, my brother, his girlfriend, and many friends and relatives were at my side whenever I needed them. My brother came over every day and would cry along with me. Those times were and are priceless. I literally would not have made it through such a dark and lonely time without all of them telling me that I can make it. It is shameful to imagine a little old lady or man with no one to share their heart and soul with. For that matter anyone can be lonely and in need of companionship. Were we not made to be in pairs?