Digital networks have done little to treat my insidious hunger for constant validation. Systems in place let us know when messages have been received, giving us the exact time when they’ve been seen. Numbers and cute little updates keep us posted on what kind of impact we make.
Of course, the inverse to this is that we’re now also aware when people avoid our digital presence. In being notified of who’s seen our messages, or who’s viewed our snapchats, we can also tell when someone appears to be ignoring us, discarding our attempts at personal interaction by the lonely wayside, even when they could simply be too busy to respond. And yet, this bout of paranoia lingers in the back of the mind, in spite of this hyper-awareness of the realm of possibility.
The thing is, these digital networks have changed the way we view these intimations. In this world of ones and zeroes, we see only in black and white. Shades of grey do not compute. If someone does not interact with us with a sense of urgency that belies our absolute importance, then we feel that we cease to exist.
I find it ironic that these networks designed to bring us together are even better at tearing us apart. By removing the most important aspect of human interaction, that is, the human itself, we also find ourselves without context. Without context, we lack empathy. Without empathy, understanding. Until we’re nothing more than a pair of optic nerves staring at a mass of pixels, waiting for them to shift into forms that indicate the presence of a soul on the other side.