It might seem a little bit odd to suggest that you, a human, might feel the need to become ‘more human’ but the more reliant we become on technology, the less reliant we are on each other.
Designing products that put humans first means taking a step back to really understand what we need. Often, what we need and what we want are two very different things. Technology is convenient, fast, efficient, there’s no doubt about it. It also interferes with our lives and changes our behaviour. Think about it, when an entire family (sitting in the same room) would rather text than talk to one another, you know there’s a problem.
So, what do we need? Well, it’s unlikely that to survive as a human you’ll need ‘more likes, followers, smartphones and chargers’. According to Abraham Maslow (psychologist and fellow human), we have a ‘Hierarchy of Needs’. Once you realise that your basic human needs are incredibly minimal, you’ll be able to live a more ‘human’ existence. We’ve listed the things you really need below, starting with the first step, meeting basic physical needs:
Air: It sounds obvious but breathing in clean air is something a lot of people aren’t able to do due to their environments. Make sure you look after your lungs. Smoking, vaping, cycling through smog without a mask and other activities which don’t involve breathing clean air should probably be avoided where possible.
Food: We don’t mean the fast kind covered in grease, salt and sugar either. We mean food which is natural, organic, homegrown, locally sourced, etc. Eat well, feel better.
Water: Most of us don’t drink enough water. That’s a fact, we wonder why we have so many ailments (headaches, dry skin etc.) and forget that we should drink enough water to keep our urine as clear as possible. If it’s yellow, drink more water. Humans differ in so many ways that one ‘amount of water per day’ doesn’t make sense. Listen to and observe your own body, then act accordingly.
Homeostasis: Don’t let your environment affect you in a negative way, wear clothes to shield yourself from the elements (to keep you warm when you’re cold), make sure wounds are treated appropriately and generally avoid situations which could harm you.
Sleep: This is absolutely essential, in the same way that knowing how much water to drink depends on you as an individual, you also need to observe how much sleep you require. Some people need more sleep than others.
If your basic physical needs are met, then you can move onto the second step which is securing your safety (also a basic physical need). That can be done in the following ways:
Avoid danger: If there are lions outside, don’t hang out with them, they’ll eat you.
Build a home: You’re going to need somewhere to hide from those lions.
Make a living: Become an expert on lions so you can pay your bills.
OK, so perhaps there are no lions but the basic concepts remain the same. Once your basic physical needs are met and you’re safe, you then need to form human relationships and this is where everything gets a little more tricky, the third step (psychological needs):
Maintain friendships: This involves finding groups of people with similar interests to you and hanging out with them in real life. However, we should mention that even as an adult the danger of meeting online friends in an offline environment could contradict the second step in your hierarchy of needs (securing your safety).
Intimate relationships: Forming physical or romantic relationships with other people can be complicated but it’s an important part of being human. Learn how to love and be loved. Love your family and your partner. Remind them that you love them, regularly.
The fourth step (also a psychological need) is about building up your own confidence and cultivating your self esteem. All of the other steps can affect this one so it can also be difficult:
You matter: This is often something we want other people to tell us (especially when it comes to social media) but in reality, humans need to tell themselves this, all the time. Say it to yourself now, “I matter.” Say it every day, remind yourself, look at yourself in the mirror and understand your worth, your value.
The purpose of the fifth step (self-fulfillment needs) is to validate your own existence:
Make the environment around you a better place: Care for what surrounds you and make a small but positive change in the world. The people that come after you will appreciate your efforts.
Be creative: Paint, dance, write, compose, design, draw, play an instrument, sing, etc. Even if you don’t think you can, do it anyway, try new things.
Believe in something: It doesn’t matter whether it’s religious, political, spiritual or philosophical, believe in something that means a lot to you.
Now that we’ve got our hierarchy of needs out of the way, you’ll notice there’s one thing missing, technology, it wasn’t mentioned once. Technology is not something we need, it’s something we want, something we choose.
You’re not a machine.
Further to technology not being something we need, sometimes it’s good to remind yourself that you are not a machine. Technology shouldn’t use us, it should be used by us. Machines can multitask, humans can but generally should avoid doing so. Monotasking is the way forward for us humans, one task at a time, carefully completed to the best of our ability.
If you have people forcing deadlines on you, if time constraints keep you up at night, tell them to respect your boundaries, to respect your need to monotask. There’s always a chance that they might also embrace the fact that they too are human and start focusing on one thing at a time. It’s also important to encourage children to monotask.
Don’t work throughout the night. When your phone is low on battery, you charge it. When you are low on energy, you need to sleep. There’s no point trying to work on anything if you can’t focus. Take a break, take a nap or meditate and come back to your task when you’re in a better frame of mind. It’s important not to feel guilty when you take a break (as people often do)!
One tab at a time.
Speaking of monotasking… Do you have so many tabs open when you’re browsing the Internet that you lose track of what you’re working on? Do you get distracted easily? Perhaps you sometimes close them all by accident and then feel frustrated because you had so many open?
There’s a popular quote online, “my mind is like a web browser, 15 tabs open, 4 of them are frozen, and I'm not sure where the music is coming from.” Take things ‘one tab at a time’, it will help you to not only declutter your digital workspace but also your mind. It’ll do wonders for your psychological needs.
Human to human communication still works.
The truth is that when you’re face to face with someone, you’re going to achieve more than you would via email. It’s much harder for them to ‘delete’, ‘archive’ or ‘ignore’ what you’re saying. There’s no ‘x’ in the corner when it comes to human interactions, particularly sales pitches. Networking IRL (in real life) can be tough but it’s worth it.
Automated tools are so common and so much a part of owning a business that you shouldn’t let automated emails annoy you. A lot of people get unnecessarily frustrated by receiving ‘cold emails’. If you receive something which is a little too automated for your liking, simply block, mute, archive, delete and get on with your day. There are a lot of ways to work mindfully, removing the things
You can’t swipe your way to the next person and not listen to the one standing in front of you.
Offline relationships matter.
As a final thought, please make time for people, your family, friends and co-workers. Remember that they need you as much as you need them.
A real hug feels better than a hug emoji.
A real kiss tastes better than a kiss emoji.
A real … well, you get the picture.
Is there anything you’d like to add, have we missed anything?
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