Before technology took over the world, it used to be that people knew their neighbors or would tip their hat as a greeting in passing. They would sit in parks and start conversations with complete strangers about the weather, and the strangers happily engaged, and there was nothing weird about that. Now it seems that, while technology has made our lives easier, it has also encouraged us to become more insular and less connected with the real people around us. That's not always a bad thing, it's just a different thing.
The world is so much smaller now. We can connect with people all over the world in seconds, and build relationships over a shared love or hate of anything at all. You can live vicariously through others, stalk your favorite people without the risk of a restraining order, or anonymously attack those you despise behind the safety of a monitor. Social Media gives the world instant access to our once private thoughts and fears (and pictures of that regrettable night that you got way too drunk and passed out in a compromised position). It has turned every day people into their own versions of celebrities with thousands of followers, friends and people hanging on their every post. I've even met a few people and not realized who they are until they tell me their Twitter name, and we instantly have a history and connection.
It isn't hard to see why life online is so much better than the reality of a boring day-to-day job where you're just an employee number mashing words on a keyboard, or an unappreciated spouse or parent. But the interesting thing I've found about life online is that we tend to be so much kinder to people that we've never met and our sense of self and success is easily inflated by intangible means. Again, not a bad thing, just a different thing.
While many people will purposely pull out their phones or look the other way so they don't have to engage in eye contact with homeless people, I smile and say something like, "Good Morning Sir!" or some remark about the weather. I work in a building with about 3,000 people - many of whom are trying to climb the corporate ladder and only care to rub shoulders with the big wigs. The cleaners walk the halls silently with their heads down, sticking close to the walls so they aren't in the way. I personally wouldn't know the CEO if he got in the elevator with me, but I know the cleaners by name and always thank them, chat to them about their families, and end with "have a great day!". These transactions don't cost much time or any money, but the instant change in someone's demeanor is amazing because someone actually SAW them and acknowledged them in a positive way. Isn't that what any of us want, and what drives our craze for an online presence? And yet, ironically, it seems we are slowly becoming so detached from the world around us that just saying Hello or Thank You to anyone in person is an increasing rarity.
"The thing that goes the farthest toward making life worthwhile, that costs the least and does the most is just a pleasant smile." ~ Wilbur D. Nesbit