The Great Disconnect Caused By the Internet

I know the Internet has played a role in helping us to continue with a small amount of normalcy through the COVID-19 situation. Many of us have been able to keep working, going to school, and connecting with others. But if things stay like this indefinitely there would be a great disconnect.

Online Teaching, Learning, Not the Same

I’m a college teacher. In March, my entire college moved to online instruction. I understand that we did this for an immediate need. And online teaching and learning can be effective. But it’s not the same as traditional teaching and learning.

A former student commented on a Facebook post on my page,

After taking public speaking in class and seeing how much fun it was, my heart aches for the students who won’t have that opportunity.

I agree 100%. As I read introductions from students instead of watching them in person, I know something is missing. As I watch YouTube videos of students speaking to cameras, I know it’s not really public speaking.

It’s not just public speaking classes that defy online teaching. Chemistry, poetry, nursing, and geology, just to name a few, are simply not the same in an online format. There is a need for face-to-face human interaction in many of these courses for true teaching and learning to be effective.

Social Media Only Goes So Far

It’s been nice to be able to connect with friends, family, and acquaintances through social media throughout the quarantine. But it’s not the same as looking into someone’s eyes during a conversation. Embracing, shaking hands, even a pat on the shoulder is important. Touch helps us to feel accepted, loved, needed.

The more we rely on social media, the less true human contact we’ll make. Yes, social media and the Internet can keep us connected on a certain level. But it’s often only on a surface level. It’s often surreal. We become disembodied faces and voices. We lose something important.

What if the Great Disconnect Becomes the New Normal?

So what if this virus causes us to have to continue social distancing into the future? What if there’s another virus of the same magnitude? What happens when human disconnect becomes the new normal? What happens when everybody remains isolated in their own cages and cells? What will we become?

I’ve already considered something. If the powers that be force me into continuing to teach fully online indefinitely, I will likely quit my job.

I didn’t sign up to become a teacher to sit around the house in my shorts checking my computer 25 times a day. I signed up to connect with other human beings on a direct and personal level. I signed up to create relationships with others, to watch students improve, to see students support one another, and to experience all of this in real time. If teaching becomes reduced to people on different ends of computers, it won’t be long before it also becomes automated from the teaching end. It’s fairly simple to program a class for automation.

I think I’d rather retire, become a part-time greeter a Wal-Mart, and live in a studio apartment than continue to teach fully online for any duration of time. Although it can be an effective way of learning, studies show that students are less successful in online courses. And quite frankly, it’s just NOT real.

The Future Is Uncertain

I know our future is still uncertain, but hell, it’s always uncertain. The one certainty we have been able to depend upon throughout the years is human connection and interaction. I’m not talking about connection through wires, signals, and boxes. I’m talking humans being together, talking, touching, loving.

If this great disconnect brought to us by COVID-19 and the Internet becomes the new normal, we might just lose the one thing that we as humans possess: our humanity.