Tim Krohn

Connectivity is the buzzword of the day.

Boiled down it means having a reliable, super-fast internet infrastructure to allow the internet of things to work — be it the monitor connected to your freezer's ice cube maker or using Snapchat and Facebook. .

All those who ran headlong into social media such as Facebook said its biggest benefit was to stay connected with others. A beautiful platform to interact with friends, family, co-workers, high school buddies.

A lot of users haven't been as endearing toward Facebook recently, as news continues to come out that the company never had even a passing interest in protecting users. Mark Zuckerberg admitted last week that everyone who's used Facebook has undoubtedly had their personal information "scraped" by bad guys.

The fact social media sites would lay bare everything about people's lives should come as no surprise to anyone.

What's still surprising is that so many people still think social media's greatest value is human interaction with lots of people.

Turns out, the platforms and devices are adept at creating a world of isolation.

HRC Retail Advisory conducted a survey recently of thousands of adults and children trying to find out what they wanted to improve their experience while shopping in stores.

More store clerks? Uh uh. More trained and informed store employees to help customers make decisions? Nope.

The takeaway from the survey was that customers wanted to go to stores and avoid contact with anyone as much as possible.

Eighty-five percent of those surveyed preferred checking prices on a scanner instead of talking to a store employee, and 76 percent wanted to have a in-store app to get information about products rather than getting assistance from an employee.

Some of that sentiment is understandable. We've all been frustrated with underpaid store employees who have little knowledge of what they're selling. But a lot of it has to do with the counterintuitive fact that all the connected devices we use often make us less sociable, not more.

The New York Times and others have been writing about "a silent epidemic" of "fauxting" — people pretending to be texting or talking to someone on their smartphone in order to avoid social interaction.

They interact with their device to avoid the awkwardness they feel in talking to someone in person, like a baby uses a pacifier to get through a stressful situation.

It used to be people couldn't wait for the weekend to go shopping and out to eat, enjoying the bustle of crowds, talking with acquaintances and strangers.

Now people can't wait for stores like the Amazon grocery store prototype to expand. Shoppers' items are automatically scanned when they drop them into their carts, their card is billed and they're out the door — you don't have to speak to or interact with a single human being, not even a checkout clerk.

It will be Nirvana for all those looking for technologically assisted human isolation.

Tim Krohn can be contacted at tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com or 344-6383.

Follow Tim Krohn on Twitter @TimKrohn

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