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Internet hugs: the new brand of lonely

By in Opinions


Human Touch

Lost? There’s an app for that. Need a place to eat? There’s an app for that. Can’t grow a moustache? There is even an app for that. Long story short, name any want or need and there is probably an app for it — along with 37 seemingly identical alternatives. Are we quickly becoming over-reliant on technology?

I’ve only recently come to terms with technology’s takeover of simple day-to-day operations. Take conversation, for example: some individuals would rather chat with their friends through their iPhones as opposed to the friends across the table. And that’s fine.

Am I annoyed with my reliance on technology? Yes. Maybe even a little bitter? You caught me. But never before have I been more averse to technological advancement than when watching a video clip of Adrian David Cheok, the first person to ever hug a chicken via the Internet.

In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed multiple variations of mobile phones replacing landlines, text messaging replacing voice calls and even images replacing text messages. We all have.

Despite feeling a very innate resistance towards most alternative forms of communication, I always took comfort in the belief that technology lacks something ­— a certain je ne sais quoi.

The “hey, what’s up” received over text isn’t quite as exhilarating as the call to your cell. A ten-second image from your bestie just doesn’t add up to stories shared over a cup of coffee. And quite frankly, three-minute face-to-face conversations can replace drawn out three-day text compilations any day of the week.

This  belief  stood  firm, unshaken by any app on the market, until Cheok showed up.

So what does hugging a chicken via the Internet have to do with society’s potential plummet into technological turmoil? Well for the sake of the decreasing attention span, I shall provide the Reader’s Digest version.

Cheok engineered a jacket to be worn by chickens. Embedded in each jacket are vibrating elements that were designed to replicate a hug or pet. To deliver this chicken love, the jacket was wirelessly connected to the Internet so that when Cheok patted sensors on a chicken doll the live foul would feel it too.

At first there was no relevance. Then slowly but surely the wheels start turning and I thought,  “I wonder if this could be applied to humans?” Enter the theoretical Huggy Pajama, a pair of jammies that can be used by parents away from home to deliver a ‘hug’ to their child at the touch of a button.

Maybe it’s just me, but the thought of technology replacing virtually all forms of human contact is simply terrifying.

Continue to contemplate the applications of Cheok’s technology and its public acceptance becomes all too possible: pets are no longer a reason to rush home at lunch, children are kept at their affection quota regardless of parents’ whereabouts and long-distance relationships are stronger than ever. What’s not to love? What could possibly go wrong?

Call me old-fashioned, but I think real-life experiences are the bees’ knees. And perhaps if I remain strong in my fight against technology, I can live my life chicken-jacket free.

My only fear is that while others are troubled by the isolating effects of their smartphones, laptops and virtual realities, I myself might fabricate a whole new brand of lonely and with no one left to have an actual conversation with. Coffee, anyone?

Graphic: Cody Schumacher/Graphics Editor

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