A couple of years ago, we had a friend visit for lunch. After our meal, as we were packing up the lunch plates, he commented that he missed the days before dishwashers became common place.
“Why’s that?” I asked him, as I began to stack ours.
“Doing the dishes together at the end of the day was the perfect chance to talk things through,” he replied. “My ex-wife and I used to talk through our days every night as we washed and dried the dishes. We lost that routine when we upgraded to the dishwasher, and well, we lost a lot of our simple communication too”.
For some reason that conversation has been really bouncing around my head of late.
Looking around my house right now, I can see so many things designed to automate and simplify our lives. The dishwasher is just one! Add in automatic washing machines, tumble driers, online shopping websites, and microwaves (among so many other things), we have got so many options and advancements that make our lives easier.
There’s no doubt, they’re saving us time. But, are they really making things better?
I’ve got my doubts on that.
Now, I’m aware that this is just my own little opinion, and in the sea of opinions on the Internet, it probably doesn’t equate to much.
But, I think people need people.
Human beings are supposed to be communal. We are supposed to work in groups, and help each other out, and work alongside each other in the interests of mutual benefit. From the beginning of time, family bonds have been forged and strengthened through communal tasks, driven by necessity.
By advancing our technology, we’ve increased our capacity for growth, and we’ve reduced the effort and time required to complete simple tasks, exponentially.
The side effect, though, seems to be that tasks no longer require us to work together.
One person can unstack a dishwasher. One person can throw a load of clothes in the dryer. One person can press the button that will see our clothes washed, and one person can push another button to heat up a microwave meal.
I can order my groceries online, pay anonymously by card and have them dropped to my door, with only a token “good morning” to the delivery guy. I can order my coffee through an app, which means I don’t need to talk to anybody – I just pop into the store, grab the cup with my name on it and piss off out of there.
I can pay every one of my bills online, without seeing a single person. I can take my car through a car wash after swiping my credit card at the entry. I could go days at a time without being required to speak to anyone, if I chose to.
We simply don’t need to do jobs together anymore. But while we don’t necessarily NEED to, I think there are some pretty compelling arguments as to why we SHOULD.
Prioritising communication over efficiency is just one.
Although I think the concept behind all of this technology is to give us more time, I wonder how many of us actually USE that time in doing things together.
It seems to me, most of us just get more free time to disappear into our screens?
Dont get me wrong, I bloody love my dishwasher. And on the days when I’m home alone, I’m thankful for the convenience of all of those instant buttons.
But what I love more is cooking a meal with my husband – sharing the load of preparing a meal, and talking about our day. I love hanging clothes out to dry with the Boy Child, as he reaches over my head, and jokes about me being shorter than him. I love washing dishes with the Girl Child, while she chatters about a book she’s reading, and we watch the rosellas outside the kitchen window.
Small moments and unimportant conversations -maybe- but these are words that would never be spoken without the premise of working together.
I see no true benefit for us as humans when one person can do everything with the push of a button, while everyone else disperses into their own activities, with their own agendas, completely separate to each other.
Together, but alone.
We’re gaining maximum efficiency, but at what cost?
This applies in so many ways to healthcare, and particularly midwifery, but you know what? That’s a blog for another day.
I think that underneath all the shiny, the fancy and the new, we’d all probably benefit from a bit more of the mundane togetherness of working side by side a bit more often, and switching the machines off for the night.
What do you reckon?