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we live in a crowded world. people are always rushing to and fro. in the past, bad weather meant people would walk hunched, head down against the bitter, blustery wind (yes, i live in an area that experiences all four seasons). today, the weather is no longer the deciding factor, the smartphone is.

too often i see people hunched over their phone as they walk down the street, or more frighteningly, across the street (hey, watch out for the oncoming traffic!), as they sit or stand on a bus or train, while at a cafe/coffee shop. the opportunity for even minimal human interaction decreases daily with self-check out at the supermarket, retail stores and hardware stores, the ATM, self-serve/buffet food, automated phone service and on-demand movies.

photo credit: technobuffalo.com

the small talk at the checkout or the bank teller who knew you so it was OK if you forgot your ID are becoming bits of nostalgia. and, if you ever waited too long behind a too chatty person, then self-serve is definitely the better way to go.

but with everyone looking down, the simplest, quickest interactions are also becoming a thing of the past — eye contact, a smile, a nod of acknowledgement. human contact at its basest level – gestures and body language — are being lost to technology. i grew up in NYC, it is one of the best places for people watching. i enjoyed walking to work  and the multitude of interactions i had along the way. so many brief encounters — a smile for the guy in the newspaper kiosk where i bought the NYTimes (wonder if he even sells papers any more!), a quick chat as i bought my coffee and bagel at the local deli, a nod at the hot dog guy i passed everyday. in a crowded, crazy world, these simple interactions say, “yes, i see you. you do exist. you are noticed in the chaos of everyday.”

little kids used to sit in the backseat of a car looking for objects for eye spy, or they would wave or stick their tongue out at passers by, now their heads are down as the world goes by them and they become expert at angry birds. parents use their cellphones as pacifiers for their children so now waiting, for even the briefest amount of time, requires entertainment by technology vs. self.

the other day i went to breakfast with my kids. as we waited for our table another family also waited. while i chatted with my kids, i noticed 6 members of one family glued to their respective smartphones. so enthralled with whatever they were doing they all missed when their name was called — the first two times!

maybe one day basic human interaction will be a course taught, to an online class, via skype…

has anyone else noticed big changes in how society members are interacting…or not interacting? share your thoughts on this topic.