Now that we are again allowed to “move freely about the cabin,” I certainly have found myself out and about. I felt like I really wanted to support those local restaurateurs that are still kicking. And like many of you, I have witnessed these places operating at reduced capacity. No longer due to social distancing requirements but a result of a labor shortage! Let’s not go there. Anyway, not much has really changed about dinning out aside from the menu getting a bit smaller. This would include the behavior of the patrons. It would seem that COVID 19 enhanced the epidemic that I call “Digital Dependency.” Four people at a table, four phones on, four brains off. I can almost feel our collective attention span shrinking.
Over thirty years ago, I was less than a good high school student. As a matter of fact, I was a “less than” is most area of my life accepts in my physical endeavors. In eleventh grade (1987) I read a book by John Naisbitt called Megatrends. It was published in 1982 after a decade of research. The author was researching a book that was going to profile the 10 trends that would shape the world over the next several decades. As an eleventh grader this was all lost on me. But the one thing that I remember from that book was the phrase, “High tech, high touch.” At the time I had never even seen a computer first. And I’m fairly sure my graduating class could have never imagined what the world would be like for their children. The simple premise behind “high tech, high touch” was that as the use of technology proliferated and penetrated every aspect of our lives we would collectively demand more humanistic forms of communication. This idea has never left me. It has come back to me over and over in the last 20 years and I’m struck by what I see happening. Has there ever been a time where there has been a need for greater, more human, direct communication?
Technological advancements have certainly changed the world. But aside from the field of medicine I feel there is a widening gap between new technologies and an improving standard of living. Disposable devices that are built to entertain do little to elevate the general greater good of a society. The convenience of being able to have your phone, telegraph, radio, TV and camera all in one place has come at a cost. Technology doesn’t come with a seatbelt, airbag, or a warning label. Humans are social creatures, even me, and face to face communication is part of socialization. Technology has become “the great separator” and has all but killed direct eye contact in our youngest generation. It has put real distance between family members sitting at the same table. Never mind a host of other relationships. I hope that we see a spike in demand for the “high touch” side of the equation sometime soon. I’m not so sure I want to see what the next variant of the “Global Digital Dependency” pandemic has in store for our communication skills. Maybe the tipping point is near?