The Shifting Spectrum of Human Connection


How do I begin this post? Great question.

I've been building The Skin Deep for two years now and share this reflection any chance I get. Now, I've been asked to put it into writing. Ouch. Not my strong suit. Words... I prefer images and sound. But words?

Ok. So where to begin?

Perhaps with a statement that lies at the core of everything we are doing and exploring at The Skin Deep:

The emotional experience of human life is dramatically (and arguably traumatically) shifting in a short window of time never seen before in our history.

This is akin to the 15th century when the Gutenberg Press was invented, which changed how information was shared and, in turn, fundamentally disturbed the distribution of power. For the first time, it wasn't just the priest who had a copy of the Bible, but also individuals who could read for themselves and question the priest's interpretation. Today, we're experiencing an exponential shift in how we relate to one another. The way we emotionally experience our lives is shifting in ways we never imagined and few of us even realize. And the fact is, our children are feeling it through the experience of life and sharing that experience with one another in ways we never have nor will.


Let me take a step back. If you were to go back to the early 2000's and I told you that in 15 years, there will be a revolution that would sweep through the Arab world (the Arab Spring), you would say, "Wonderful. So who is the leader? Who is the Gandhi, MLK of that revolution?"

I'd say, "No one. It's actually led by a peer to peer platform called Facebook."

And you would reply, "Topaz, you're crazy. In order for a revolution or movement to take place throughout history, it needed a leader, a figurehead, to follow. So now you're telling me there is no leader? That's insane."

Well, we now take it for granted that there are movements led by a collective consciousness without a clear figurehead, all facilitated by a peer-to-peer platform.

Similarly, in business, if in early 2000 I told you there would be a company that -- with 13 employees and within 18 months of launching -- would be valued at 1 billion dollars without ever having made a profit, you would tell me I've lost my mind. Throughout history, business was defined by the ability to earn a profit. So how could something be worth so much without ever turning one? Well, meet Instagram, where its massive wide spread adoption in such a short amount of time explained its value.

Things are clearly changing in ways we have never imagined. Exponentially shifting. We're in a period of human history that is a profound turning point in our evolution. And much like how politics and business has radically altered, so to has the way we humans experience connection, intimacy, emotions, and relationships. This is the focal point of The Skin Deep.

If you were to give a color to every emotion we can experience as humans, I would argue that the spectrum of color -- the spectrum of human experience -- is shifting. There are new colors that are appearing while other colors are disappearing.

An example: There was a time, not long ago at all, when you would be standing in the elevator or subway car, with a few people and have that question come up, Should I say "hi"? Should I acknowledge this other human I am sharing this small space with? Or, pretend like I don't see them. This was an awkward sensation and dilemma we all experienced. Well, thankfully for mobile phones, we never have to experience this again. We're all looking at our phones and don't have to ask ourselves that question, let alone experience that odd emotion.

Similarly, a new experience -- a new color -- that has arisen is how we meet our potential partners. In the past, it was purely dependent on physical proximity. You'd meet your partner in church, school, a party, the bar, on the street, somewhere you actually had to be at in order to meet them and connect. Well, once again, that is no longer the case thanks to technology. Now, you can find your partner online: OkCupid, Instagram, Snapchat, Bumble, Tinder. The world is vast now. And depending on your interests, you can find your community, your tribe, regardless of physical proximity. A new color! Who I am and who I surround myself by isn't limited to physical space, but rather my own identification and willingness to explore that identity.

Now, here is what I find most interesting: it's how quickly we take this shift for granted. Do you remember when bottled water came out? If you do, then you are over 34. And you know it sounded like the stupidest idea ever. Why would I buy water in a bottle when I can get it out of the tap? It would be like someone trying to sell you bottled air (which, FYI, is already happening). You'd say, "C'mon! Oh, please! Why should I pay for air out of a bottle when I can just breathe it in?" Well, hello world. Ask any millennial and they assume water was always sold in bottles. It doesn't surprise them in the least.


The same can be said about our emotional experiences of life. There are things we are easily taking for granted, things we assume were always the way it is. My grandfather would reprimand me for speaking on the phone. He would say the phone was to be used only to arrange a time to meet someone in person. These days, we prefer to text than to talk on the phone. Notice how in the last three years, voicemails have become obsolete? And I can barely imagine what it was like to work before emails appeared, even though I remember the first time I logged into Hotmail!
What also blows my mind is not this change that I see around me, but rather the change that I see in me. I used to reprimand my younger brother -- we're 17 years apart -- for showing me things on his phone when speaking.

"Sapphire," I'd say, (yes we are all named after stones), "Will you stop showing me things on your phone (Soundcloud, YouTube, etc.), and just look me in the eye and have a normal conversation?"
And he'd reply, "Why are you limiting my ability to communicate? I'm giving you a multi-media presentation. What's wrong with that?"

Well now, two years later, I'm communicating just like him. And I find it hard to do it any other way. The pace to which we adapt just blows me away. How fast we forget the past, how things used to be, and the comfort we find in the new as though it were always the case.
All these changes have created the space for new reflection, questioning, exploration and experimentation. What is love? What is sex? What is family? How do I want to live my life in conjunction with others?

What we are doing here at The Skin Deep is creating experiences that reflect and examine these changes. Focused entirely on human connection in the digital age, these experiences make you rethink how you connect with yourself and others.