Small talk or in-depth conversations. Both have been replaced by on-demand services.
A few days ago, a close friend and I were out on a stroll at one of the finer areas of the city, the Central Business District. It was a pleasant evening and the area was posh with well laid footpaths, clearly marked crossings, ample street lights, and landscaping done to the T, in total incongruity with the rest of the city. Potholed streets, non-existent sidewalks, narrow lanes, dark alleys, and dusty main roads. This is what most of the city looks like.
We had a lot to catch up on since it was after 3 months of rigorous lock down that we were finally allowed to go out. We were almost at the end of the road, about to reach an intersection. A mutual friend of ours was to return to the city from his hometown the next day, and I was itching to get home as early as possible so that I could pick him up from the train station early next morning. Pop goes my friend, “relax! why do you wanna trouble yourself? He can just get himself a cab”.
It was at this point that the aha moment, the moment of insight to write this article occurred to me. He had caught up with me and we were standing at a zebra crossing next to the signal, waiting to cross the road. It was at this very juncture that I dwelled upon all the opportunities for expressing ourselves that we’ve lost; the missed conversations, the missed opportunities for bonding, friendship and camaraderie which have been taken away from us by modern day high tech Apps and services.
As a 90’s kid, going to pick someone up from the airport was a much anticipated event. It was literally a picnic in itself! The fact that it was sudden and unplanned meant that it was instantly inspiriting and de-stressing. It offered a major reprieve from the daily monotony of school life: school, home, play, study. The excitement at such prospective outings were splattered all over our juvenile faces.
Call me childish, weird, or crazy, but there was a certain pleasure in doing very ordinary things in childhood. Things which are either totally non-existent or do not elicit the same level of excitement in today’s world. Going to pick someone up from the airport, helping a friend move houses, or just shopping with a movie on a Sunday are some of the things we humans have always bonded upon. Returning to the present, I was quite taken aback by what my friend said.
How could someone who once so badly craved for such excursions in their childhood want to give up on a chance to do so again? If not anything, it is a blatant revelation of how we, as a generation of millennials, have sold the simple joys of life in exchange for money, a career, and ultimately, a family way of life. Much of our daily opportunity for human interaction has gradually gotten de-humanized over the years: They’ve either been taken over by algorithms, or by other humans themselves.
Katrina Stone, in her well received piece titled, “My Struggle Within an Ever-Dehumanizing Capitalistic America”, says:
“I continue to feel the further reach of unrestrained capitalism into every corner of life, even into the parts most sacred, the parts that make us human. This is one of the most tragic elements of all. The need to make profits above all else is stealing our lives away from us. It really is up to us to collectively take back what is ours.”
In another extremely well received piece on Medium, “Our Culture is Turning Us into a Bunch of Hyper-Aggressive, Homicidal Maniacs”, Jessica Wildfire explicates the disastrous outcomes of all this de-humanizing. She particularly lays emphasis on how these algorithms have roboticized and automated so many aspects of our lives, that we’ve completely forgotten how to be human anymore; how to treat our fellow beings with kindness, love and respect.
“Maybe living in a culture that constantly places more value on productivity and material wealth than human life has something to do with the rise in crimes that show an outright disregard for the lives of others.”
Maybe this is exactly what this generation is missing out on. That small talk made in the car while travelling from the airport to the house. That warm cup of Chai contemplatively sipped on, waiting for the plane to arrive while taking in the daily buzz of the airport. The deafening sounds of planes piercing through the lower regions of the atmosphere, reverberating all around. The therapeutic process of waiting for that friend or relative to arrive at the arrivals gate, helping them with the luggage, and patiently gossiping over hot tea and snacks at their house after all the hard work is done. The sights, the smells, the sounds. The human touch, basically.
No one has deep conversations with each other anymore for fear of stroking the others ego. We’re either divided by religion and politics or separated by choice of food, clothing, or deeply treasured belongings. And most recently, even by one of the many covid induced divisions.
We don’t need someone to bring us pizza. There’s an app for that.
We don’t need someone running errands or doing favours for us. There’s an app for that.
We don’t need someone to talk to when we’re sad, depressed and lonely. There’s an app for that.
We don’t need to borrow a friends bike. There’s an app for that.
We don’t need movie, restaurant, or holiday recommendations. There’s apps for those too.
We don’t need a friend to go therapy shopping with anymore. We can effortlessly browse thousands of products and therapy-shop right from the comfort of our swiveling desk chairs, without blowing our precious money on food courts and parking tickets.
We don’t need to ask for favours to watch our kids or walk our dogs while we’re out “making it” in life. There’s tons of apps for that.
You no longer have to beg or persuade your friends to go trekking, cycling or running with you. There’s umpteen adventure companies offering these experiences to you as “services”.
And that’s not all. You can literally “hire” someone to cuddle you!
Yes. That’s right! You can hire a “professional cuddler” who’ll take care of all your intimacy needs.
As per one cuddling service site, their services are targeted to those who “have chosen to live a single life, but still have an innate need for affection”. You no longer have to maintain a relationship or put up with your partners shenanigans, what when there’s a dozen apps to find the next one, or even better, just cuddle someone without getting into all the nitty gritties of a relationship. How wonderful!
Basically, there’s an app for every platform that would have facilitated great conversations, idea sharing, socialization, bonding, attachment, and friendships.
We’re a society that’s drifted so far apart, we don’t even feel the need to talk to the person sitting next to us on the subway. Do we even need to know our neighbours? Absolutely not! You don’t need to “borrow” sugar or salt anymore.
There’s an app for that, remember?