On Personal Interaction

people talking

Did your parents always tell you that you need to be with people more often?

Mom: “Honey, it’s time to take a break.”

Me: “Why mom?”

Mom: “Because it’s not healthy to be in a cave just playing video games all day.”

Me: (annoyed eye roll)

Perhaps you didn’t understand why; I’ll admit that I didn’t. But now I have come to realize why interaction with people is so important. I’ll say that this understanding comes through observation and some of my own education.

In order to understand why person to person interaction is so important, one must have a basic understanding of the nature of a healthy human being. In terms  of conciseness, and precision, Aristotle conveyed that understanding better than any other philosopher.

Book 1 chapter 2 of Aristotle’s Politics contains what is perhaps the most well-known and important quote in all of his writings. He states (translation):

“It is evident from these considerations, then, that a city-state is among the things that exist by nature, that a human being is by nature a political animal, and that anyone who is without a city-state, not by luck, but by nature, is either a poor specimen, or else superhuman.”

What does Aristotle mean by “a human being is by nature a political animal?” Politics is, in its simplest definition, the interaction of people coming together to make a civil order. This implies discourse, and interaction. If these things are natural to human nature, then being with other people is implied to be a healthy activity.

However, if one makes themselves isolated from other people, and does not interact in a natural manner, then that person is not healthy. Aristotle later goes on to say that such a person is “‘clanless, lawless, and homeless.’ For someone with such a nature is at the same time eager for war, like an isolated piece in a board game.”

How many times have we seen that those who perpetrate mass shootings have been sick in the mind, isolated from normal human interaction, and often obsessed with video games? All too many…

This is not to say that all gamers grow up to be mass shooters, most certainly not. I did plenty of gaming in my teen years, often to the dismay of my mother. Often to my dismay, she would force me to come off of the game console, and to do something else. I never understood why in my naivete; I merely thought my mom did not want me to have fun. But I now understood that she was merely looking out for my well-being.

She was not allowing me to do something; she was not allowing me to become sucked into a virtual world where human interaction is, at most, through the internet. Such constant virtual communication is not natural for humanity, and we can see the results of this today.

How many times do you just look around and see more than half of the people around you with their heads buried in some sort of electronic device?

Ask yourself this: how many times do you see people talking face to face anymore? With the dawn of Facebook, email, text messaging, etc., people no longer seem to communicate in person as they used to. The interpersonal connection that is such an integral part of human nature is being neglected on a massive scale.

friends coming over play on phones

Don’t think this is an issue? Let me present a little experiment to you. Get together with some friends, maybe those whom you have not known your entire life, and put all electronic devices away; just do not use them. Now try to spark an interesting conversation (without using your smartphone or tablet).

If you have not known these people for your entire life, or do not have a close relationship with them, you would likely find that striking an intriguing conversation is more difficult than you thought. Why? Because you have to do something that goes away when sucked into a virtual world: think.

If Aristotle is right, when we interact with others, we start to think, as a natural reaction. It is in our nature to reason according to Aristotle, and the function of human nature is to reason. But when we do not have that personal interaction with other people, thinking is no longer as necessary. People often become mindless on their smart devices. Hell, we have smart phones and dumb people!

This message I target mainly at Millennials, who are stereotypically known for being lazy and obsessed with their technology. In a manner of speaking this is true. We do like our tech, often too much. Guys, when your parents say that you should take a break from gaming or being on Facebook, take it with a grain of salt. It’s more important to get off the virtual world an actually talk with people, or even read a book. (Read some Aristotle if you’re up for an intellectually stimulating time!)

We often forget people, or works written by people in the midst of such amazing machines. But in the end, what does it matter if you can talk to someone on the other side of the globe if you cannot talk to the person sitting right next to you?

Follow Seth on Twitter: @sconnell1776
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