As a teacher, I take pride in the fact that I learn all of my students’ first and/or last name within the first three days of class. Learning the names of over 100 people in that amount of time is not always easy but it is good for building a rapport with people. There are plenty of tricks to acquiring information that quickly. Unfortunately the honest truth is that I don’t remember all of the names after the year is over. The other day a former student came to visit and it took about five minutes for me to remember her first name. While I’m not proud of this event, I don’t feel all that badly about it either. The information was in there but just not near the top of the filing system. I feel much worse when I first meet someone and less than a minute later, I don’t remember their name.
There are many reasons why this happens but a major one is that new people aren’t usually important to us yet. In English class you may remember your teacher talking about the “first person”, “second person” and “third person”. That basically represents the way that we used to define people’s importance. In a pre-technology world, the most important person in our lives was ‘self’. This was followed by the people we had contact with directly. Finally there was the rest of the world that held up that third position. Now there is a third class of people, invisible.
Invisible people are all around us. Of course they’re not truly invisible. We can see them if we look hard enough. The reason we usually don’t see them is because we’re looking at our phone, TV or tablet. In theory these should be “third person”, people that are there but you are not directly interacting with. The problem is that position has now been replaced by the “second person”. These are the people that we are in direct contact with but today they are almost universally ignored in favor of the digital. The digital second person is basically the default contact that we reach to before anyone else. For some, it seems as though all people have become invisible people.
So this weekend, give life back to the invisible people. Take the time to see who is there. Engage with people you know and don’t know on human level. Remember that a hug is better than text. A smile is better than a like. Time with an old friend is better than a new Facebook friend. Technology is a tool just like a hammer. Used correctly, both are intended to build. Used incorrectly, both have the possibility to destroy. Be human this weekend and visit with the invisible people.