July 2021

The Paradox of Modern Technology: Closer But Less Human

Small running retailers provide products and events/activities for the local communities of runners.

By Mark Mendeszoon

COVID-19 has changed the world in ways that we can’t even imagine as of yet. One thing that this pandemic has done is it caused us to distance ourselves from other people and realize the paradox of modern technology.

As a practicing podiatrist/foot and ankle surgeon at Precision Orthopaedic Specialties in a small midwestern town, the pandemic has allowed our medical profession to become dehumanized. Since the virus became prevalent, all this social distancing has forced us to lose our best caregiving tools: our human senses. hands-on treatments, personal interactions, and empathy have all been thwarted. With the improvement of telemedicine, patients can still be treated, but at what cost?  It is often difficult to make a diagnosis just by talking to a patient and not being able to examine them, palpate that soft spot to truly understand it, or use our human interaction to comfort and help our patients. During the pandemic, even when we see patients in the office, the human contact and experience has been diminished by not being able to shake someone’s hand, look at them without their masks, or observe their facial expressions and body language; none of that but with the fear of potentially acquiring the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19). Medical offices now look like science-fiction novels where plastic shields, face guards, gloves, hand sanitizer, social distancing, sanitizing equipment, and chemicals have created an ominous cloud in the offices, surgical centers, and hospitals. Honestly, it feels like a George Orwell novel or Twilight Zone episode.

Not only has this pandemic impacted the medical field but also the retail market. As owner of 3 Achilles Running Shops, we have been fortunate to survive the pandemic, unlike many other brick-and-mortar retail shops. Online sales have been beneficial, but once again, pandemic-centric curbside pickups, social distancing, plastic shields, and customers’ fears have changed shopping in person for the worse. As online sales continue to grow exponentially, the brick-and-mortar stores, which are the fabric of local communities, are deteriorating rapidly.

Like most other people, I am hoping to get back to some sort of normalcy. As time progresses what I have learned from the pandemic is that I miss social interaction with my patients and customers. I miss teaching students and other professionals in person. I miss having human contact and socializing with people. As I know the terrible impact that this pandemic has imparted on the world, I have been blessed and grateful that no one in my immediate circle has lost their battle to this vicious virus. I am also humbled that I am able to continue to practice my vocations as a physician, surgeon, retail specialist, track coach, and educator.

As the pandemic restrictions are lifted, I will much more appreciate having the privilege and honor to work with patients and customers. I will listen more astutely and intentionally engage in conversation, not only for their medical or running issues, but for their overall being. I will value my skills that allow me to help people and be able to socially and physically care for them in person and have the human element, which is something we all need.

Technology has been great through this pandemic to keep things moving forward; however, I believe that technology is also diminishing the human component of existence. I hope we can connect as people and appreciate socialization and human contact in the future. As far back as the 1940s, some feared that technology would outpace humanity. Our response to this pandemic certainly makes you wonder…

Mark Mendeszoon, DPM, is a senior partner at Precision Orthopaedic Specialties Inc. located in Chardon, OH. He is the director of University Hospitals Richmond Heights Medical Center Advanced Foot & Ankle Surgery. In addition, he is the owner of three Achilles Running Shops in Northeast Ohio and Erie, PA, as well as President of the Maple Leaf Track Club.

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