Have we sacrificed human interaction for gadgets?


“GADGETS have enhanced human interaction to a level thought impossible before, but at the same time they have also diminished it,” said a friend who loves gadgets.

This is a typical scenario today at most coffee outlets and cafes. You have a bunch of friends sitting around a table, yet each one of them is glued to his or her own tablet, netbook or smartphone.

Occasionally one or the other will look up and give the rest an update of what’s happening on a social networking site. Another will probably respond, “Yeah, I saw that too”; and they would all crowd round to look at the tablet or smartphone in question, before getting back to their own gadgets.

This is what the Eye’s friend means by diminished human interaction.

Before gadgets, people seated around a table would actually have a real conversation with each other. These days, we tend to interact more with our gadgets.

Even if we are at a gathering with friends, many of us would not be able to resist the urge to occasionally glance at our gadgets and start updating social networking sites.

This change in the dynamics of social interaction, thanks to gadgets and technology, has even affected humankind as young as two!

A friend’s daughter had her own portable DVD player at the age of two, so she could be kept occupied with videos of her favourite cartoons.

Now, aged five, she has her own iPad! Imagine that! And installed on her iPad are, again, videos of her favourite cartoons, and also educational applications that revolve around languages and mathematics.

The Eye once brought this little girl to another friend’s place. This other friend has a daughter around the same age. Instead of wanting to make a new friend, the little girl instead asked for her iPad.

During long distance road trips, most children will also ask for a mobile phone or any gadget that has a game on it to pass the time, because they say they have nothing to do.

Parents these days will, mostly, gladly hand over these gadgets to them, just so that the kids would behave and keep quiet.

It is pretty sad that some parents do not initiate other activities that would allow the child to learn and at the same time, interact with others. For example, they could encourage the child to look out the window and observe what is happening outside. Or sing songs. Or even try and spot (or count) vehicles of different brands and colour.

Then there are those who argue that these gadgets have actually enhanced human interaction.

Well, the Eye can agree to that to a certain extent. Think about it, 20 years ago, a phone call overseas to a loved one would have cost a bomb. We restricted communication to the occasional phone call and letter writing (which would take weeks to arrive).

Today, gadgets and technology have allowed us to connect with people all over the world for a minimum cost of RM38 a month (minimal broadband subscription) at any time we wish.

What’s more, we can actually see the person we are talking to in real time, thanks to gadgets that allow real time conferencing.

Again, 20 years ago, these gadgets would have cost an arm and a leg.  These days, a simple Internet enabled phone can cost a mere RM299.

So do gadgets cause diminishing human interaction? The answer is “Yes”.

But have gadgets enhanced human interaction? The answer is still “Yes”.

Being social creatures, we will naturally still require actual or real human interaction to get through life.

No, we cannot rely solely on communicating via gadgets, even though they have made it easier to connect with others.

As the wise say, too much of a good thing can be bad. It is the same with gadgets. We use them, need them, get hooked to them. But use them wisely, use them in moderation.

We do not want the next generation growing up with their noses buried in their Gorilla Glass gadgets, not knowing how to communicate with REAL people.

Oh wait, that is already happening.