The article I’m focusing on today is about the app called Nextdoor and the impact it has versus physical interaction.
“Nextdoor is a fast-growing social network based on geography. So far, over 77,000 communities have signed up. Here’s how it works: Download the app or log in via the website Nextdoor.com. The site verifies your address and directs you to the Nextdoor network in your neighborhood. If there isn’t one, Nextdoor gives you the option to start one and invite your neighbors.”
Using the app you can give a heads up about issues in the neighborhood, sell and trade things, or just meet people to form clubs of interest. It’s about taking the old neighborhood tight knit community mentality and introducing it in a way that is comfortable to the new technology driven generation.
Although this sounds good, there are some people who have found neighborhoods using it as a venting system, where they say things to others they wouldn’t say otherwise in person. Similar to the problems of the internet, there are even reports of racism and discrimination which leads to neighborhood tension and conflict.
The real question comes down to why don’t neighbors just talk to each other like they used to? What system in place is causing this disconnect in our neighborhoods compared to the past?
I think this goes back to the idea that we are now living in a more hyper-attention dominate culture. We have become conditioned to get what we want when ever we want through technology. Talking to a person can feel like an inefficient way of getting things done, compared to an app. Using technology also provides evidence of an interaction, and holds people accountable.
As technology advances, are we losing the trust of others? If I pick up the phone to make a business deal with some one, would I have to email them and recap everything we talked about on the phone for documentation purposes? If we continue this path, will we eventually communicate strictly through technology? I hope not.
We even see it in kids today, they are often having issues with maintaining eye contact, with a more dominate use of technology, it has lowered their comfort and confidence in physical human interaction. I know how this feels, spending a whole weekend by myself at home on my computer, I’m usually not as social that Monday to classmates. But if I went out camping with friends instead, I have a completely different mind state that is positive and sympathetic.
Connecting with other humans physically is part of being human. When we touch other humans we release Oxytocin, this makes us feel warm and cozy, and creates a bond between another. Its a natural evolutionary aspect of us that technology can not simply replace. Even a simple hand shake releases Oxytocin, this is why a business deal is commonly sealed with a handshake. I think we need to consider how the chemical nature of our bodies are being manipulated and limited by technology, how can we accommodate both?
Going back to the Nextdoor app, if this trend of using technology to moderate the public in more personal ways continues, what impact will it have in our future? Is this system designed to favor some and reject others? I think it would favor those with more time and resources to contribute to this system, which would create another feedback loop in itself.
They also mentioned using similar apps to find babysitters. I don’t know where to begin with this… why would you want someone watching your kids when you’ve never met them in person? This seems very in personable towards your children, if they grow up in an environment where they understand their parents got them a babysitter who was selected online, I don’t see this building a great trust relationship in the family. It basically says, I won’t put any time and effort into finding you a great babysitter, so I’ll do what is convenient for me.
Although technology has it’s pro’s there are also a lot of cons when it comes to utility apps that are traditionally physical in nature. Serendipity events also plays a big role in making connections that change lives. If we keep on this track of mitigating physical connection, I’m not sure where our future is headed, but it doesn’t seem to be a warm one.