Everything was going great during Hugh Riminton’s fireside chat with Hugh Mackay until the very end. Until the point when Hugh Mackay suggested that the digital world was making it harder for people to actually see and connect with each other.
Now, as a very generalized rule, I generally agree. But it’s a point of view that will resonate much more with extraverts who make up arguably half of the population. And extraverts are the half of the population who, by definition, regularly see and personally interact with lots of other people. Putting a digital device into their hands may very well change the number of in-person interactions taking place.
But for people on the introverted side of the curve, the silent half, the quiet half, the half that doesn’t blather on for hours because they need to hear their own voice, the half that stays behind closed doors much of the day, the half that loves libraries and forests and other places of peaceful solitude, the digital world does not close doors. Rather, it opens doors.
For some people, the digital world is the only door to the outside. For some, the outer world is too loud, too complicated, too busy, too distracting. For others, it is too stressful, too fearful, or too anxiety provoking. The digital world offers them a way to experience the wider world with less stress and distractions. It allows them to practice interacting with people in a slow and calculated way.
Pish posh, you say. Get over it, you say. Well, then perhaps you ought to completely change your personality, or maybe just stop being scared of heights or flying or bats. Maybe now is the time to register for that class in empathy. The world is not built like you. Stop expecting everyone to be the same as you.
As for the rest of us, we’ll continue to take full advantage of the digital world. It’s a wondrous thing.