Thursday, 11 August 2011

The breakdown of society? - Anita Kerwin-Nye, Director

I am not so glib as to suggest that my partner leaving me trapped at home on Saturday by taking car seat and pram led directly to riots on the streets but it did leave me wondering about the importance of communication skills, and real human interaction, in building resilient communities.

What’s the link? Well I had a range of chores that I planned to do with children and baby in and around the local town. When the option of leaving the home was removed, because carrying a wiggly heavy baby 2 miles in your arms is not a good idea, I did them all online.

The food shopping was delivered courtesy of the local shop’s national website. I uploaded photos to a national store to get them printed rather than taking the memory stick to the local photo shop. I emailed thank you cards for the christening rather than writing them out and taking them to the post office. I sent my flowers to via the web rather than picking them up from the florist and popping around to the neighbour who had helped during a recent family emergency.

So my spoken contact for the day was limited to my children (lovely) and my partner (raised voices – less lovely - but forgiven now) and a delivery man. Yes I made a few phone calls but that interaction that comes from being out and about – chatting to the woman on checkout, whinging with fellow customers in the post office about the length of the queues, taking half an hour to wax lyrical about the beautiful flowers with a fellow enthusiast – were all lost.

Online everything is great. I love my smartphone. I am a child (well less child) of the internet and my children treat it as a normal part of their life. But balance is everything. Just one day without real people to eyeball and talk to made me twitchy but I can also see how easy it would be to slip into a world where everything was done with the click of the mouse. Talking matters. Face time matters (and not just as an iPhone application). Remembering not to drive off with the car seat in your car matters (and won’t I can assure you happen again!).

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