How is a reduction in face-to-face contact affecting society?
By using technology people can perform everyday tasks such as shopping and banking, as well as business transactions, without meeting others face-to-face. What are the effects of this on individuals and society as a whole?
In the world of ebay, Amazon, Taobao and myriad other online stores and services, there often doesn’t seem to be a need to go outside at all to do one’s shopping or errands. Yet whilst there is undoubted convenience in being able to purchase groceries and clothes whilst lying in bed wearing one’s underwear, it is bringing about a social cost.
The age of the shopkeeper and local store is on the way out, replaced by the era of the delivery man. This means shopping as a social act – meeting members of the community and sharing news – is less likely (nobody chats to the delivery man about his life). Although it does not appear much, it is a chipping away of the community fabric.
On an individual level, meanwhile, being able to control one’s life from a computer is reducing the need for people to go outside. For previous generations a day off might have been the time for them to get in the weekly shop, deposit a cheque, or head out and buy a Sunday newspaper; now it can be spent lying on the sofa pressing screens whilst the sun shines elsewhere. This inertia is not only bad for one’s physical health, but also for mental well-being: it is increasingly easy to lock one’s self inside and create a personal jail. Many newspapers in the west have reported on an epidemic of loneliness, which is not a coincidence.
In order to negate these effects the general population is having to change its attitudes and activities. Online messaging is everywhere because people still need social contact, and the cafe culture has risen because people still desire to escape the house. In the coming years new trends are likely to evolve because, whilst the world wide web and apps are useful, deep down the mind and body still require the fundamentals of interaction, stimulation, and movement.
To conclude, the disappearance of face-to-face meetings is undoubtedly having an effect on society. The convenience of the internet is often offset by a lack of social bonding and the temptation to become sucked in to a hermit’s lifestyle, although new activities have arisen to fulfil certain needs. Irrespective of wider trends, however, it is up to individuals to ensure that they have the discipline to balance the online world with the physical and spiritual needs of the body and soul.