I (Ales Zivkovic) was recently challenged to think and as panellist discuss the way I see technology affecting human interaction – the way people perceive each other through and because of tech. Primarily because I am a cofounder of the startup that is in a way altering real-life human interaction, but also from psychotherapy and counselling perspective. It is interesting that even though technology keeps on changing the way people interact so much, which can in fact be a good thing, it has changed the way we perceive each other even more, which could be a problem.
But technology is not only changing the relations between people. It is also changing our own perception of ourselves and how we view who we in fact are.
If you consider all the social media platforms out there today and especially the online dating industry along with all the dating apps, you can quickly get a sense of immense impact technology has on our lives. Combine Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter and you pretty much have a considerable amount of average person’s chunk of daily life they spend in interacton with one another. Add other apps onto this, along with dating apps, and you pretty much have all the human social needs and recognition hunger met.
The use of social media has evolved so much that it is resulting in people developing their online selves and strongly associating who they are with their online self.
This is a problem even with generations that only became familiar with computers in their teens. But if you take a look at millennials who have grown up sensing – from the day they were born practically – that their online self and the real self are inseparable, you can only imagine how ingrained this delusion is in their perception of the world and who in fact they are. They sense their online “me” as the real “me”, so the rationale is that it is this “online me” that will determine my place in the world. It is my social media profile that is exposed to the world and out there for the world to see, comment, like, interact. It is the online “me” that is being recognised by the world, by friends, contacts, people I am “connected” to. It is the online “me” that gets validity and that validity is therefore the validity of me.
On one hand you have modern cosmopolitan lifestyle where people work and do not really have time or willingness to socialise. Not to the extent that they would develop significant relationships. As you already know yourself, meeting friends for a coffee or lunch in London usually takes a lot of planning – sometimes even months on end. And on the other hand you have the tech advances and social media penetration that acts as a crutch to all this – as apparent solution to the problem of the lack of real contact.
So, the reality of the situation is that relating to others takes place through all other means but the real personal connection. And once this is the case, the emphasis of individuals’ presenting themselves to the world is going to be on the online self rather than on the real self.
The online self has presence in the world, and the real self is stuck in the midst of the four walls adjusting and polishing the online self. If you are a millennial this is how you have lived all your life and this is your ingrained perception of the world. London is one of the cosmopolitan capitals of the world. It has the population density of more than 5,000 people per square kilometre. But at the same time people are amongst the loneliest in Europe.
If you are a millennial you will probably be going to Starbucks with your buddies, have a frappuccino and then sit down together. As you do that, each one of you will pick up your mobiles and engage with the world that is not there and then. You will be staring at your phones and commenting what you are experiencing in your world at that time. And your world will actually be the interaction of your online self with some other person’s online self.
People are detached from intimate human contact because they interact through wifi and virtual reality and since more and more interaction takes place through technology, more and more interaction takes place between the online selves instead of the real selves.
So people will value and also nurture their online profile more than they value themselves. Have you ever met a person that thought that all her career depended on her reputation? That’s kind of similar thing.
What happens then is that people associate themselves with their online presence so much that they feel it is a part of them – who they really are. Not only do they project all their identity to their online self but also validate that identity and tie it to the interaction with others. And others in this case are also online selves of others. People will feel bad if their profiles, blogs, tweets, snaps do not get enough recognition and their posts don’t get any shares. They will consider themselves as not as good as others. Their sense of self is completely cyber-based. It is like playing a video game with another person.
Your avatars will interact, but the feelings associated with it will be yours.
The absurdity gets worse if you consider the entire online advertising industry. Today you have numerous options to increase your online presence and increase online interaction. You have an entire industry revolving around SEO, growth hacking, boosting posts etc.. So someone who is keen to get more interaction, more likes, more visits to their blog, more comments, will be able to boost their online self by either buying ads or by other growth hacking tactics and seemingly increase the importance of their online self. So now you can actually artificially enhance how important you are online.
This really goes to show how not only has sense of self moved from authentic personal identity to the online self, but also how the online self is becoming increasingly influenced and dependant of pure technological growth hacking and boosting.
Is the solution to this less technology? I don’t think it is. That would be like saying prohibition decreases alcohol addiction. The solution is proper self-awareness, proper parenting so that kinds learn to be OK with who they are, proper distinction between what you are actually using your online presence for and who you really are. The answer is in the self, not the tech. We chose how we will use the tech based on how we relate to ourselves.
To find out how you can work with me, visit aleszivkovic.com.