Saving Face in the Digital Age

TECHNOLOGY AND ME

For about a week or so in my late twenties I flirted with becoming a Luddite. Computers will ultimately destroy what’s most human in us, I thought. We need to fight against this onslaught of technology. However, just like the college Peace Corp fantasy, my biggest passions tend to come in short bursts. I’m too lazy to be an idealist.

I got my first iPhone from my wife after my cheap, bottom of the line flip phone was destroyed in a Diet Coke accident. I didn’t really oppose technology at the time, I just didn’t get what all the fuss was about. That changed.

I understand now the fascination and desire for technological innovation. I binge Netflix, listen obsessively to podcasts, FaceTime family thousands of miles away, learn guitar licks on YouTube, and have been able to create this very website precisely because of the magic of the Digital Age.

Still, at times when I am lost in my own screens, or even worse, when I look up and notice that my wife, two daughters, and I are sitting in the same room oblivious to one another with heads bent down, hypnotized by devices -- I get nervous.

George Orwell’s bleak quote from 1984 said it best,

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.
— George Orwell, 1984

 

becoming a Ludd-LIte

To keep faces boot free we need a new ‘Ludd-lite’ philosophy, one that maintains the importance of the human face even as we use technology to work more productively, create more passionately, communicate more effectively, or just have fun. 

We don't need to rail against technology, we just need to be mindful of its consequences. Consequences to us socially and psychologically, but maybe more importantly, consequences to the integrity of the human face itself.

Time spent looking down at screens and away from the colorful faces all around us, robs us of something vital. The more we lose ourselves in digital spaces, the more we lose sight of our precious human faces -- and with them, something distinctly human and joyful. 

This face of ours is a unique membrane. At the surface it's the intersection and expression of our thoughts, feelings, and physiology; but at the same time, it points to something so much deeper. 

 

saving Face

I'm obsessed with faces. It's likely why I'm in the counseling profession. As a child, like many I imagine, I learned to read faces long before my first book. I still love to read as I work as a therapist today. 

Faces are sacred. Bright, beautiful, wistful, sad, angry, bored --  at every moment, they silently reveal our inner most being. Who we are and how we are reside first and foremost in the face. In their immediacy, availability, and vulnerability faces are the most authentic expression of our humanity.

They are the leading edge of our encounters with one another. They hint at mysteries just below the surface. Faces have the power to draw us in. With or even without our consent, they display our mood, our secrets, our character, our essence, our spirit, our soul. They express what words can't or won't.

The most relational organ we have, they are an essential instrument of intimacy and connection. As powerful as they are fragile, though, faces need our protection.

My task as a therapist in the Digital Age is pretty simple. It's about saving face -- and maybe in the process, saving our capacity for more intimate and meaningful connection with each other -- even as we live alongside the technology that serves us and benefits us in so many ways.


How can I help? Schedule your first session or set up a free phone consultation.

Call 425.451.1620 or email  joe@joebutlertherapy.com