A while ago, the peace of Auntie’s afternoon was shattered by a scream. It came from Earl, next door. Ever the good neighbour, Auntie went to investigate. Earl was in the bathroom pointing a trembling finger at the tub wherein sat a big, hairy, long-legged spider.
Auntie recognised the uninvited guest as a harmless visitor, so she trapped it with a glass and a placemat and carried it past the trembling Earl to the garden and freedom.
Most spiders are solitary. Except those that aren’t.
There is a social species in the Amazon that creates giant webs for colonies several thousand strong. And last summer, residents of a Greek seaside town woke to find that everything on their beach – including boats pulled up onto the shore – was covered by a massive web made by spiders in a mating frenzy.
It’s an arachnophobe’s nightmare. But not for Auntie. She’s fascinated by spiders and how vibrations on the fine threads alert them to activity on the other side of their web. In their silken structures, she sees a parallel to human society. How our own ingenuity has created a web (the worldwide one) that alerts us to events in different rooms, streets, towns, countries and even outer space.
Spiders are very good at making efficient use of the connections they build. Human perhaps less so.
We’re more connected than any time in human history, but in some ways further apart than ever. Some people, like Auntie’s friend at GAC Oman, Ramachandran Nair, worried in his recent article that all our fancy technology, online obsessions, smartphone selfies and FOMO (fear of missing out) mindset is robbing us of the ability to have real, meaningful conversations.
Auntie is more optimistic. She’s old enough to remember a time before TV and knows that the box in the corner didn’t destroy the family unit or our ability to converse beyond grunts (teenagers excepted). We learned to use it for our own benefit and not to become its slave. We even learned to reach for the ‘Off’ switch when needed.
Auntie is confident that we can get smarter than our smartphones.
It’s up to us use them to make our lives easier, get stuff done and reach out to people far and wide - without losing the ability to connect with the people sitting next to us.