Ride-hailing company Uber has launched a feature enabling users to choose a quiet, non-talkative ride. Since when did people become so socially inept that we are unable to navigate even the most basic of human interactions or – horror – to endure a few minutes in the company of someone else?
Our need or desire for interaction or respite varies, of course, from day to day and from person to person. Those needs or desires may not be mutual in the moment. What concerns me is that we are delegating to an app what we should do as humans, by which I mean we should embrace our innate suite of social skills to encounter and respond to each other. Call this emotional intelligence, or simply being human. The more we lean on an app to communicate our core needs and to mediate our engagements, the less able we are to be human.
Making a bad situation worse is that this feature is being rolled out as part of the premium tier of Uber service. In other words, avoiding our social abilities, abnegating our humanity, is worth paying for as a luxury!
App features like this and others are pernicious and dehumanizing. They continue the erosion of our social interactions in every sphere of our personal, professional, and communal lives. Before long, we won’t know how to be human at all. No wonder our social fabric is fraying and our workplaces are less and less cohesive. No wonder people are unwittingly and to their bemusement stunted in the growth and experience.