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The Human Touch and the Digital Age

One of the things that separate human beings from the rest of creation is our ability to connect and communicate through physical contact. It is an important aspect of being human, and we’re not just talking about procreation (although that is also one of the reasons). A lot can be communicated with a simple handshake, pat on the shoulder, hug, high five, or even a peck on the cheek.

It has been utilized throughout history as an effective non-verbal language, able to communicate deeper and more intimate thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, a simple touch can already make a whole world of difference to a person. A tight hug can express longing or sympathy. A firm handshake is often used to close business deals and tell the other party how one is committed to honoring their end of the deal to make it work. A pat on the back expresses pleasure and congratulations for a job well done.

Physical touch is as essential to us humans as the air we breathe.

Digitalization and the Human Touch

In the 1993 movie, Demolition Man, Sandra Bullock’s character, Lt. Lenina Huxley, brings Sylvester Stallone’s character, John Spartan, to her home for intercourse. With eagerness, Spartan accepts only to be surprised when Huxley comes back into the room and puts a device on his head that allows people of the time to have virtual sex.

Okay, that might seem a bit far-fetched at this time but the point is digitalization somehow affected the way humans communicated with each other and handled our affairs. Perhaps it’s not as extreme as the way lovemaking is done in the said movie but human interaction has been taking place more online than in the physical realm, especially during this pandemic.

Just a couple of years ago, we were all busy milling about in our lives thriving — and often, surviving — the amount of human interaction we get daily. We all found ourselves walking through crowded streets trying to make it to work on time. Our kids went to school and enjoyed after-school hours playing with their friends. We spent many a night having dinner and enjoying the company of loved ones. There were no restrictions on human physical contact. We gave out hugs, shook hands with everyone, walked hand-in-hand with loved ones, spent intimate times with partners, cuddled with our kids, and more.

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Nowadays, almost everything is done online. Business meetings are done online. Kids are under distance learning programs away from their friends. Adult education takes place via the digital realm such as watching psychotherapy training video content or taking online correspondence courses. Realtors make use of online platforms for virtual open houses. eCommerce is at its strongest.

One might say that all of these are brought about by the pandemic and that once we’re clear of it, things will get back to normal. However, experts believe that even without the pandemic, we were already on this inevitable track of online connectedness. The pandemic only helped speed it up.

We appreciate how helpful technology has been and how it improved living conditions worldwide but it has also helped disconnect us physically from each other. People would rather spend time looking down on their smartphones and tablets instead of enjoying an actual conversation with people. The lack of digital discipline hinders us from truly connecting with others in meaningful ways. We need to understand that digital devices and technology are meant to help us connect better with others. It is not meant to replace real physical relationships.

Humans become unrecognizable apart from physical touch. Years ago, a human-like creature was seen running through a forest and was captured. It turned out to be an 11-year old boy who spent most of his childhood in the forest. Doctors and psychiatrists attended to the boy. They concluded that the boy was deprived of human touch. Because of this, his developmental and social capacities were retarded.

This shows why, even amid technological advancement, we still need the human touch in our lives. Scientific research has all sorts of data to back up this claim. They have found that physical touch:

  • Decreases violent tendencies
  • Creates greater trust between people
  • Strengthens the immune system and reduces the risk of diseases
  • Builds better team dynamics
  • Connects people more intimately in a non-sexual way
  • Increases learning engagement
  • Improves a person’s wellbeing

The impact of physical touch cannot be refuted and ignored. It is an essential part of our lives. Its effects can even be felt by nations who benefit from the economic gain produced by happier and mentally healthier people. Digitalization is great but let’s not let it take the place of meaningful relationships that are nurtured by physical contact. Use technology wisely to improve your relationships with the people around you, regardless of the level of physical contact, whether those are casual high fives with coworkers, friendly hugs with friends, or loving kisses to family.

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