Without touching

The expression “keep at a distance” is the key word during this pandemic period. But this evil of contactlessness is deeper and ... worrying. By Philippe Boyer, Director of Institutional Relations and Innovation at Covivio.

Blame it on this damn virus, for several months now, we have entered a society of distance. The peaceful gesture of shaking hands, historically to mean "I am not armed", has completely disappeared from our daily lives. Until we find those famous "happy days" made of hugs and laughter out loud, we have to live far from each other. Like these posters which, at our merchants, recommend that we pay for our purchases by swiping our payment card through the terminal without even having to tap on the code, we have resigned ourselves to living without contact.

If it becomes difficult to give the part to the homeless because our small assets composed of banknotes and coins have melted like snow in the sun, the latter suspected of peddling possible microbes from previous users, this generic name of "contactless »Goes beyond its sole market function. It characterizes the general state of affairs of a society which tends to cellophane, or say at a distance, our individualities frightened by this pandemic while cyberspace is bubbling with ever more intense, more problematic, even more violent relationships.

Physical distancing, at the heart of the GAFA market

Behind our digital screen (or "Smoke curtain", to use the very recent documentary proposed by Netflix), the observation is there: paradoxically, we are moving away from each other and living more and more in a society where the contact is essential.

Admittedly, during these last months, it was necessary to learn not to mix any more closely, but the germs of this “without contact” were already largely present, as ready to hatch.

We owe this situation to the new technologies brought by the GAFAs. For the latter, physical distancing is at the heart of their markets. If the virtual has allowed us to "stay together" during these long months of confinement and in a few months it seems that we have "gained" several years of habituation to the digital thing (in terms of remote work, teaching ...), at what price did this groundswell imposed itself? And for what lasting consequences on our lives?

Teleworking will never succeed in recreating physical human links

If it is possible to appreciate this "contactless" because it provides an instant aspect, it does not prevent invariably, it has the effect of smoothing human relations.

Teleworking (even in the form of avatars that evolve in a virtual space) will never make it possible to recreate this human bond which is formed at different times of the day in a physical place. Goodbye to small conversations, seemingly superficial, at the coffee machine but which nevertheless allow you to understand the other without forgetting to move their files forward.

The American anthropologist, Sherry Turkle, studied for fifteen years our relations with technological objects. She took from it this work with the obvious title "Alone together". His account of teenagers shows their increased dependence on smartphones and their tendency to prefer high-profile interactions over one-on-one, the latter considered too demanding. In addition to the fact that this ultra-connectivity tends to be accompanied by compulsive behaviors that jeopardize the construction of oneself, this passivity in front of a screen also results in us being more and more "in front of yourself" rather "than" 'alongside others'.

Without contact, without touching: temporarily, or definitively?

Sometimes the most radical forms of this contactless society appear. Whether it is the use of the Zoom videoconferencing application by the Uber platform to lay off 3,500 of its employees, and this in a few minutes, or the possibility of using "telework for life" for Twitter employees, this “distancing” leading at best to an atomization of work, or even to the destruction of social ties and identity. We are here a long way from the sympathetic nature of the virtual aperitifs so typical of these new habits of this society where we are together but through interposed screens ...

Aristotle's best-known quote - Man is a political animal - has not aged a bit. Designating that life in society is the fundamental condition for man to be able to come true, our existence cannot be reduced to this society of contactless and touchless, although everything pushes us to do so, temporarily because of this pandemic or well, more worrying, definitely because of the grip of new technologies on our lives.

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