“If you’re born in a cubicle and grow up in a corridor, and work in a cell, and vacation in a crowded sun-room, then coming up into the open with nothing but sky over you might just give you a nervous breakdown.” ― Isaac Asimov, Foundation (Courtesy Goodreads)
Hi! I’m 24 years old, I have an umbilical cord attached to my phone, my laptop is my best friend (because of course my work and personal life pretty much reside in it) and while I like to meet people, I’m also that person, who ditches calls or flakes on plans because I want to stay in bed and make out with technology. You know what I mean.
But I’m increasingly starting to think that his Netflix and chill tradition has totally ruined human relationships. No offence, Netflix. I mean, see above re the umbilical cord. When did this need to avoid people become a “thing’? It’s like living through your teenage years again and trying to avoid human contact… except this time your feelings are not limited to just your parents!
Black Mirror, a Netflix original show that seems chillingly close to the reality of the coming years is something that scares me. In an article on newstatesman.com, Ed Jefferson writes about the real possibilities of the occurrence of each episode in real life, and you’d be surprised to know how close the results were. Creepy!
As a kid, what did you think the future would look like? I’m guessing flying cars, taller glass buildings, and more silver and gray. Every thought we have of the future is related to technology… let’s not forget the development of better smart phones, smart TVs, social media…and I could go on. Okay, fine, enough with the technology bashing… I’m just wondering how do we negate some of these effects and re-assert control? Go enjoy a sunrise somewhere, take a break from the digital leashes we’ve signed up for?
More immediately, here’s what inspired this post: I was going through my social media feed and stumbled upon a heartfelt message dedicated by a friend to someone who had recently committed suicide. The girl was just in her 20s, and she had taken her life. The comments on the post revolved around how there was lack of “real” conversation in her life, that a “hello” on Facebook was not enough, and that the digital age ironically had bridged a gap in friendships.
It’s true. The human touch has a profound effect on our lives, and technology is robbing us off from this beautiful experience. Social Psychologist Jean Twenge writes about how being surrounded by people is good for mental health and how newer lifestyles — nuclear families, late marriages, living alone — are making us more and more unhappy. She also says, “there’s also clear evidence that people who focus on money, fame, and image are more likely to be depressed and anxious.” (Source: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/03/for-80-years-young-americans-have-been-getting-more-anxious-and-depressed.html )
I know that sounds like a generalisation, but … it hits home. Are we prioritising the wrong things?
You know those memes we see on social media regarding hugs, and cuddles, how they gives us the warm and fuzzies, for the most part? How we tag our loved ones in it? How we crave to be with our partners? The human touch is a huge element in combating feelings of isolation, or depression. It’s essential to our development. And starts early on. Did you know breastfeeding, that early-stage body-to-body contact activity, has been shown to affect the baby’s development? And no, I don’t just mean the “oh, it’s good for the baby’s health” development, but “the baby will probably grow up to be a decent and empathetic human being” development.
I don’t think we can ever truly “live” through technology. I think we need a reminder every now and then that our anti-social behaviour can take a toll. Dr. Bhavana Gautam talks about the importance of “talking to people”, and it’s not just her — many therapists press upon the need to talk and share.
Apart from that, friends and family too need to create a safe environment for conversations. While an individual takes a step towards opening up, as a friend we too need to extend our hand to hold them steady.
Coming soon: My next piece on the issues of physical and mental health. But I have to leave you with this: I’m not old enough (editor’s note!) to remember Blackberry thumb, but did you know there’s such a thing as text neck?
Spine-health.com describes it as a modern spine ailment: “Text neck is the term used to describe the neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your cell phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently and for too long.”
Phew. Time to take a deep breath, unplug and take control! If you need more inspiration, here’s some in a nutshell.
“There are billions of stars to visit, diseases to cure, people to help, happy feelings to be experienced, and video games to be finished, there is so much to do,” to quote from this cool video, Optimistic Nihilism.