My wife is a reader – I read too [well actually I now listen to more books than I read – but that is another story] – so she uses our local library. Earlier to day I went and picked up a book she had ordered and I realised that the whole process took place without the need for any human interaction at all. The book was searched for and ordered online from home. The internet told us it was there, ready and waiting to be collected. The new, revised, updated system enables us to collect the book, scan our library card and leave the library without speaking to a single human being.
Later I went to the supermarket and they too have recently installed self check-outs. Now, admittedly, the conversation with the checkout chicks was rarely long or detailed [and never deep] but even the pleasantries of “How are you, today” can now be avoided.
So we are developing additional ways to live our lives without human interaction – a low touch system. Yet we are increasingly living in a world that needs, craves almost, human relationship and contact. Could it be that we have realised the ineffectiveness of passing conversation? That we have so many ‘contacts’ online that we can live without them in the offline world? Maybe we are satisfied with other methods of small talk that we shun everything apart from deeper more personal conversations.
I guess the phenomenon has been slowly creeping up on us – automatic teller machines [ATMs] have been here for a number of years enabling only rare visits to the inside of a bank branch. My teenage job of a fuel attendant no longer exists as we self serve our fuel, we automate our car wash, we press our own buttons in the lifts [elevators] – or is that last one showing my age too much.
All I know is that the young people I work with long for conversations that reveal real listening, real care and concern for their issues of life, real human relationships. I also fully know it isn’t just a desire of young people – in many ways it’s all I desire too.