In a world increasingly dominated by faceless interactions, it can be easy to forget that people really do matter. It’s not that I’m anti technology or anti social media - their value is quite clear. From the quick ‘like’ on Facebook that helps a start-up business build brand recognition, to the ability to interact with anyone, anywhere, at any time, we are in many ways more connected now than we have ever been before. But with so much to look at and digest, it’s all too easy to become disconnected from real issues and real people. What’s happening to our ability to empathise?
Last week, it wasn’t social media that alerted me to the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman serving a five year jail sentence in Iran for unspecified national security offences. It was the harrowed face of her husband as he spoke on the news about her plight, and that of their two year old daughter, Gabriella. I was so moved not just by what he said, but the way he said it and his very clear anguish, that I felt compelled to do something, anything, to help.
Of course, technology held the key. All within a matter of seconds, I had found the petition calling on the British Government to intervene, signed it, and shared it across social media platforms. With 833,368 supporters already, I hoped that in some small way my move to ‘share’ would help propel the petition forward - and perhaps it might.
In truth however, with alerts from Avaaz and change.org regularly hitting my inbox, this was most likely a petition I had seen many times before, but one that had failed to move me.
The connected, technology-driven world we live in today empowers the little man. It gives us reach and access to places and people we might never have engaged with otherwise. But to be at its most effective, it should always be combined with a real face, a real individual that – either in person or through a screen - can communicate emotion and bring to life a story for technology to relay. With video expected to account for 80 percent of global internet traffic by 2019, it seems that for people everywhere, it’s still the human touch that counts. I, for one, am clinging on to this.