As screens and machines take over our society, we become more connected but more disconnected than ever. Or, in other words: I like friends.

What really sparked these thoughts was an article that I read recently, on the New York Times. It brought on a few really good points, notably about the fact that screens are becoming cheaper and cheaper to make, while also make what they replace cheaper as well.

In regards to the social impact of screens: any place that can fit a screen in (classrooms, hospitals, airports, restaurants) can cut costs.

But we’re feeling the repercussions of this “progress” already. While teachers are being replaced by screens in schools where budget is inadequately tight, being able to raise children tech-free has become increasingly sought after. Concerns have been raised about their impact on kids’ psychological and social development.

Trying to get away from screens isn’t only applied to children. Hear me out: it used to be that pagers were a symbol of importance—that you were a busy person. However, in today’s times, the opposite is true; at the very top of the hierarchy, you don’t have to answer to anyone, because they would have to answer to you instead.

“What we are seeing now is the luxurification of human engagement”

So really, more and more screens are appearing in the lives of the underpriviledged, whereas screens are disappearing from the lives of the affluent. The richer that one is, the more they could afford to spend time offscreen.

There is also the reality that in our culture of increasing isolation, in which so many of the traditional gathering places and social structures have disappeared, screens are filling a crucial void.

what to do with in this ever-evolving world?

Trends point towards a future where AI and machine learning take over boring tasks, while humans will be assigned with higher-level tasks. Sometimes dubbed as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where the first, second and third are steam power, electricity, and automation technology respectively.

From that train of thought, strengthening soft skills is one of the best investments I can make for my career. Ironically, it’s precisely these types of skills that robots and AI won’t be able to imitate (at least in the near future).

Going to the Legacy Conference earlier on this term really made me appreciate how skilled some people are at creating authentic connections with others, and delivering their ideas and messages in a well-spoken manner.

So from here, I’ve set three personal growth goals for the upcoming academic term:

  1. Make, and follow through, with board game plans: My accessible board game collection has been growing, and to be honest, I find that board games are one of the best ways to make new friends and getting to know friends of friends.

The specific goal hencefore, is to organize or join board game events at least twice a month for the term of 2B, as well as maintain a way to contact others for regular board game sessions.

  1. Decrease mindless surfing: I’ll track app usages for Reddit, Instagram, and Facebook. Although I don’t rather use the latter two, I still consider them to be mindless time sinks that contribute to too much screen time. Messenger won’t be counted, as it’s my main method of contacting others.

Specifically: get the surfing down to close to nil during class time by removing myself from my phone, and to cut mindless surfing to less than 10% of the time I spent being productive. For example, if I had 5 hours of class time, and worked on assignments for 3 hours, that gives me 48 mins of redditing mindlessly. Surfing with a purpose is okay though, for example to ask a question or with my SO. This seems attainable…?

The app that I’ll be using is: StayFree. No special considerations, it’s not obviously buggy and was the first non-sponsored result that came up from “app usage tracker”. Plus, the UI is kind of pretty, I guess?? I’ll try to post the numbers at the end of the term.

  1. Meet up and reconnect with important friendships: I recently caught up with Caroline Wu, a good friend of mine from middle school, as well as Freya Zhang—both friends that I haven’t caugh up with in a while.

This goal is much less measurable, because there isn’t any good balance, or rate of reconnection.

However, I’ll try my best to not neglect others reaching out when things get stressful. I find that it’s often the first step that’s most difficult.

a final personal reminder

These goals don’t have much to do with the business-y kind of interaction: it’s just a rough measure to keep myself from shutting off the world when things get too overwhelming, as a way to manage stress, per se? And on the flipside, I want to make a better effort at reaching out more often to friends when I can as well.