“Simply put, humans are not wired to be constantly wired.”
– Cal Newport
You know those videos on YouTube about understanding the subtleties of movements down to the utmost micro-expression? From the dichotomy of their smile and the lack of engagement within their gaze to the direction where their feet are pointing to, a person’s body language explains a great deal about them.
But what happens when we spend our days glued to our devices and the basic level of communication we have with another human being is reduced to a short-lived, back-and-forth exchange online with a complete stranger over the latest viral video spreading throughout Facebook? What happens when the closest you get to making physical contact with the person you like is barricaded through the glass screen of your phone? What are the consequences of allowing real people to be entrapped within a cage of aluminium, carbon, and a bunch of other elements, leaving them to decay at the back of our minds, unchanging and constant?
Because a change in expression or tone does not translate as efficiently when they are written in binary codes. The irony lies within the fact that social media supposedly help us network by drawing a line of thread through our digital identities and connecting them together like those nine-dotted puzzles we used to do as kids. Despite that, I find myself growing increasingly distant from the people I see on my Instagram feed. No longer do they feel like real people; rather, ideas that only exist within the digital space, abandoned and stripped of their sense of selves.
But I am equally subjected to the same adversities. Somewhere out there, in the eyes of a pending stranger, someone whose name last rolled off the tip of my tongue when I still bore my white and blue school uniform 5/7 days of the week, I have yet to change. Regardless of my now slightly defined features or the (albeit minimal) evolution of my wardrobe, or the extra 1cm added to my height, in their minds, I remain as the same 16 year old high school girl that they barely ever knew.
Eventually, it seems as though our presence online serves mostly as data for government officials and capitalist leeches to use against us at some point in time. Our relationships with most people in the digital world end up feeling nothing short of disingenuous. Like parasites, we plunge ourselves into each others’ experiences and their memories to such a degree where our standards of living and being alive have been viciously distorted by vicarious escapades.
This isn’t meant to come off as a commentary; a social critique against our interaction with technology as it continues to advance and we are grabbed by the collars of our neck to be dragged along for the ride. We are all simply living in accordance to the time period we exist in. It would only be hypocritical of me to judge when I fall into the same equation because, at the end of the day, I am no different from everyone else who made the conscious decision of participating on the Internet.
So what is the major takeaway from those YouTube videos about reading people? Well they’re actually pretty useful but only once you learn to put aside those voyeuristic tendencies in place of self reflection because you’ll never properly understand people by always standing on the sidelines. Utilize both sides of your one-way window and immerse yourself into the now as you had always wanted to.