Spring has sprung, Dark Dreamers,
We cannot deny that we, as humans, are social creatures. Even the most introverted of us still needs some human interaction. Children, who receive food and shelter, but not interactions and touch, falter. Very few successful books could maintain a reader’s interest with only one character. Even The Martian by Andy Weir, which came very close, worked hard to get communication back up as he was going a bit peculiar without it. In pieces like this and Castaway, the character discarded from the rest of the social race, must find ways to mimic social interactions, i.e. the communication logs and Wilson the friendly volleyball. There is only so far the socially interdependent species of human can go alone.
Yet, one of my students brought up the concept in my communications class last week that she fears we’re losing our ability to actually interact one with another. She spoke of seeing her friends desperate to look at the screen if someone appeared to approach them so they wouldn’t have to speak to them. She confessed that as much as she hates seeing it, she does it too. Her words reminded me of this quote from Vincent Nichols, “We’re losing social skills, the human interaction skills, how to read a person’s mood, to read their body language, how to be patient until the moment is right to make or press a point. Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanizes what is a very, very important part of community life and living together.”
We see it all the time. Families out to eat, staring at their screens. Parents at kid’s games posting and watching their phones rather than the game. I have even seen students walking on campus walk straight into a pole or another student due to their attention being diverted down. But we can’t just blame “those damn kids”. It is a multi-generational change.
But now it is spring, a time of change and growth, even for us dark urban fantasy writers who wallow in writing about blood and monsters and all things violent. This is a chance for us to seek out more interactions as the weather itself is no longer driving us indoors as it did all winter. We should seek ways to make the everyday activities a better way to connect with others. And before you ask, yes, Dreamers, I’m holding myself to the same standard. I have fallen out of my running habit, and I can feel it. So, I have started on the daily running challenges again, only this time, I’m not doing it alone. No hiding behind my earbuds and drowning the world out. Nope. This time my husband and son and dog are joining me for the runs. We’re training together and making it a family bonding moment each day. We’ve already run twice as a group, and I can feel the difference of having others there.
The same is true for our characters. For me, characters should not be so perfect that they do everything on their own. I love a character who overcomes the antagonist by giving it everything they’ve got and being backed by the relationships they’ve cultivated. Luke would have been a failure without Han and Chewie and Leia. Harry would never have even seen the stone without Ron and Hermine. Being an old school gamer, my most successful character was not the one with the best stats. No, she was the weakest fighter in the game, crippled, but she made friends with everyone she met. When the bad guys came for her, they had an army to make their way through to even try. That’s our social groups. They are our cheerleaders, our cattle prods and our counselors all tied up with a pretty bow.
So, this concept of the changing of social interaction is a hot button with many people. What do you think? Are we as a society losing our ability to communicate effectively one with another?