Technology can’t always replace physical connection


Before quarantine, many took for granted the opportunities to see loved ones regulary. Now quarantine has made us value the physical connections we never appreciated.

The 21st century has been called many things. The Information Age, The Digital Age, the New Media Age. Whatever name scientists and researchers call it, this century is a time of technology and information being at the fingertips of any person. The current century is the only time I’ve ever known, but right what I thought I knew has drastically changed. 

I grew up in the peak of technological advances. For as long as I can remember, there were always multiple ways to talk to others using technology. I remember when the first I Phone came out in 2007. My first phone had a slide-out keyboard and no internet, but I still had a feeling of awe when holding it in my hands. At that time I was too young to envision the leaps technology would take in the future. It never crossed my mind that in a few years, artificial intelligence gadgets like the Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa would be in homes across America. 

Being the youngest child in my family, and being the only one born in this century, I have a unique outlook on the technological boom of the 2000s. As a child, I listened to my nursery rhymes with cassettes and a giant Boombox. My princess movies were mostly on VHS tapes, and I remember getting our first flat-screen TV. Now my unique outlook might be because my family was always late to the game on technological advances, but I still feel a sense of astonishment thinking back on my life and seeing how much has changed. Kids today may not even know what a CD is. All their movies and music come from streaming devices. The fact that streaming is all today’s kids know is honestly a little scary, but that’s how many people have felt about any younger generation that has ever existed. 

Many were excited for the new decade to come, but 2020 came and knocked the world to its feet. The decade began with fears of World War Ⅲ and in February, America was talking about the Iowa Caucuses. Coronavirus seemed like it was on an island far away and would never interrupt our lives. By March, the world was under the dark cloud of Coronavirus, and the wave of shock and panic landed.

Now it is April and technology can’t stop an infectious disease from spreading. I am willing to admit that technology has made quarantine much easier to bear, but Americans are still struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

As a country, we have gone through many disastrous events in this century that have brought Americans together in solidarity. First, it was 9/11 and troops entering Afganistan. Then came the stock market crash of 2008 and the mass shootings that still continue today. As a current 18-year-old on the cusp of adulthood, I was never old enough to understand some of these prior disasters. The aftermath of 9/11 happened when I was a baby, and although I understand how deeply it affected our country, it is an event I continue to learn about in history books. In 2008, I was six years old and barely knew who the president was. My little brain couldn’t comprehend what exactly was happening. 

Many adults lived to see the aftermath of 9/11, the 2008 stock market crash, and most likely other disasters before the year 2000. Their hearts felt the country suffering, and they remember the country coming together. Now, a whole new generation is experiencing a national crisis at an age where we are all old enough to understand its effects. Never once has Generation Z experienced a crisis that took us out of school, completely uprooted our lives, and affected some of our families economically.

I once asked my parents where they were on 9/11. Now future generations will be asking their parents and grandparents what their life was like during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

For those people who are quarantining and practicing social distancing, technology is a way to keep in contact with our loved ones. Texting, calling, and Facetime. Whatever we can do to mimic the physical connection we all used to have before social distancing. Most of us did these things before Coronavirus, but it was during a time when we knew that seeing that person face to face was an option in the near future.

Now it is no longer an option because seeing someone in person and accidentally spreading Coronavirus is a risk some of us can’t come back from. We have witnessed how the selfish actions of others who chose to not follow government orders caused the number of infections to rise drastically. Not social distancing could mean killing the lives of others. 

With my one month social distancing anniversary here, I have found that one thing I miss the most is the physical connection of talking to someone face to face. I miss the feeling I would get while having a simple conversation with my friends and enjoying their presence. My entire senior year, I interacted with certain people every day. Now those interactions were taken away before I had the opportunity to recognize how important they were to me. I appreciate physical human connection so much to the point that it makes me feel lost without it. 

Fortunately, a lot of us still have our families, but we still miss the people we saw at school or at work. Technology may help us stay connected, but the technological advances can’t always replace the connections we value every day. I miss sitting at a loud cafeteria table with my friends and simply enjoying their physical presence. Even if we weren’t talking and working on assignments that were due next period, having my friends next to me was a joy that I never truly appreciated.  My last day of having that was on March 12th, 2020. I wasn’t ready to let go because that was supposed to be in June. 

I believe that during this century, some of us have become very accustomed to relying on technology to build relationships with others. Texting and calling can help maintain connections, but humans are naturally drawn to the physical company of others. Before this pandemic, some of us unknowingly took for granted the simple pleasures in life because technology replaced them. I never imagined that there would be a time where I would do anything just to wake up at 6 am and go to school. 

We all dream of the day when Coronavirus is over and venturing out into the world is safe, but I hope that this difficult time can teach us a valuable lesson. We sometimes take the blessings in our lives for granted. We may encounter daily obstacles, but at least we are allowed the right to go out into the world and build our lives the way we want. During this pandemic that simple right has been taken away.

This pandemic is something we all have never experienced before. It will go down in the history books as a major event of this century, and it will most likely change the way we look at life. I just hope it will change us for the better.