Communication devices are valuable tools to develop our natural sociality: they allow us to stay in touch with people far away, to know new realities, to move to fields of knowledge that we might never have otherwise approached. So it could be said that these tools break down barriers, space-time barriers and cultural barriers.
However, it is possible that those same tools become an obstacle to authentic communication.
From aggregation to isolation
Books, radio, TV, computers, mobile phones, video games, or tablets are tools that, if properly used, promote aggregation and sharing. Yet they can produce exactly the opposite effect, becoming the cause of isolation.
Who hasn’t seen a group of kids at a party, in a square or in a restaurant, all together, yet each one alone on their cell phones?
How many children spend their days locked in the house, alone, in front of TV, a computer, or PlayStation instead of socializing with their peers?
And who – upon seeing a beautiful landscape or a monument, hasn’t thought first about photographing it (and maybe posting it on his favourite Social Network) before really contemplating it and sharing their feelings and thoughts with those next to them?
They are just examples of how tools designed to unite each other can, on the contrary, create distance.
The "barriers" created by cell phones
One of the tools that in everyday life can "create barriers" between us is, without a doubt, the cell phone.
We don’t want to launch an attack on smartphones here (often it is the way use we make things that make them "good" or not), but it is worth remembering that the risk of addiction is always lurking.
Just think - on average we start using smartphones at 7:23am and end at 23:21pm, for approximately 3 hours a day. These hours multiplied by seven days of the week is almost 24 hours. In practice, it is like spending a full day at a week interacting with our phone ( read another article in this regard, which addresses this topic).
Recent studies confirm that cellular dependence is now a widespread phenomenon in every advanced country, regardless of age, sex, and social status: instead of becoming a tool to support interaction with others, it has becomes a tool to handle our relationships regularly. In this way it is possible that communication by telephone replaces "real communication"...with the technical instrument overriding reality.
How the simplicity of children can bring us back to reality
What showed me the extent to which these instruments are hindering authentic communication – more than any study – was my son.
In his spontaneity (this is a baby only a few months old), he managed to make me understand the negative relationship I had with technology.
Not long ago, like every new-born, he began to give his first smiles: a wonderful show.
But instead of enjoying the adorable dumb grins, I immediately armed myself with a cell phone to immortalize those moments.
When my son, instead of his mother, found himself looking at a smartphone screen, he stopped smiling.
"No more laughs, darling?” I asked him looking at him. He then laughed again.
So, I picked up my cell phone and tried again to take a photo.
Again, he stopped smiling in front of my smartphone.
At that moment I understood a truth for nothing (especially in an era like ours, where we often become victims of the "real-time sharing" fanaticism): he wanted to smile at me, his mom, in flesh and blood.
He smiled because he saw me, because he gave me security. He smiled at me and had no reason to show joy and amazement if he found a lifeless tool in front of me.
The cell phone (useful in so many cases!), at that moment had become an obstacle between us, its presence between his face and my face made our communication less authentic.
At that moment – more than ever - I realized that sometimes you have to leave your smartphone in your pocket and simply enjoy the smile of those next to us.