Monday, July 06, 2015

Are you a human or a gadget zombie?

Earlier this afternoon, I stepped out to run errands, including getting my hair cut.  I am now uber-conscious about my checklist.  After going through the sequence, I intentionally left my cellphone behind at home and headed out.

I started doing this a while ago, but of course only when I am driving in town.  I leave the cellphone behind fully knowing I might be away from my phone for three hours sometimes.

I was beginning to worry that my mental makeup was getting affected by the tether to this electronic gadget.  A worry that I was becoming the Pavlovian dog responding to the beeps and sounds from the cellphone.  In the old days, when stopped at the traffic light, if I looked at the rear-view or side view mirrors, there was a fair chance that I would see the eyes of the driver behind me.  But, I started noticing that increasingly the drivers' heads were down.  No eye contact anymore.  They were gazing down at their gadgets.

Thus, even though I was a minimal smartphone user when away from home, I decided that I needed to take breaks.  Of course, most of the time when I go for walks I am naked without the phone anyway.   So, driving around in town without the phone was not going to be anything that dramatic. Nonetheless, I decided that I ought to, in order to make sure my brain doesn't get reprogrammed the way the businesses would like to brainwash me.

Even until a few years ago, that's what we did; remember?  The landline is all we had and we went about our lives.  We might have missed calls.  But then we made sure to have an answering machine so that the bill collectors could leave their nasty messages ;)  And remember how some of your annoying friends had some atrocious outgoing messages that made you wait forever for the beep?

Now think about kids and teenagers who are growing up with that tether.  They have no experience whatsoever of being away from gadgets like smartphones.  It should worry you.  It should worry all of us.

Take that one step higher:
Excessive use of computer games among young people in China appears to be taking an alarming turn and may have particular relevance for American parents whose children spend many hours a day focused on electronic screens.
An attachment to books doesn't become something like that.  An attachment to thinking and walking by the river doesn't prevent me from eating and going to the bathroom.
The documentary “Web Junkie,” to be shown next Monday on PBS, highlights the tragic effects on teenagers who become hooked on video games, playing for dozens of hours at a time often without breaks to eat, sleep or even use the bathroom. Many come to view the real world as fake.
Chinese doctors consider this phenomenon a clinical disorder and have established rehabilitation centers where afflicted youngsters are confined for months of sometimes draconian therapy, completely isolated from all media, the effectiveness of which remains to be demonstrated.
Let me repeat one sentence in case you didn't get the full weight of it: "Many come to view the real world as fake."  Worried now?

This is not any uniquely Chinese problem.  Japan has its version.  And the internet of things will mean that sometime soon even Malawi's kids could end up as gadget zombies!
While Internet addiction is not yet considered a clinical diagnosis here, there’s no question that American youths are plugged in and tuned out of “live” action for many more hours of the day than experts consider healthy for normal development. And it starts early, often with preverbal toddlers handed their parents’ cellphones and tablets to entertain themselves when they should be observing the world around them and interacting with their caregivers.
Are you beginning to worry now?  Not yet?  Ok, how about some more excerpts:
“If kids are allowed to play ‘Candy Crush’ on the way to school, the car ride will be quiet, but that’s not what kids need,” Dr. Steiner-Adair said in an interview. “They need time to daydream, deal with anxieties, process their thoughts and share them with parents, who can provide reassurance.”
Technology is a poor substitute for personal interaction.
Aha, you recognize this theme from my other posts, right?  Like even in this road-trip post from a few days ago.

Technology is a poor substitute for personal interaction, indeed.

Maybe, if I have the energy, I will write about the wonderful conversation that I had at the barbershop.  In the meanwhile, for your health, plan on systematic disconnect from that ball and chain that restricts you--no, I am not referring to your spouse, but to your cellphone ;)


Ramesh said...

Disconnection is a drastic remedy. The trick is to balance the involvement with electronics and time for doing everything else (including lounging around and watching NBA !!!!) Sure we spend a lot more time on gadgets, but that's not necessarily a bad thing as there are also immense benefits from it. But taking time to do everything else you have written about (sadly you have not mentioned playing sport) is also important.

I am happy at my "balance" even though I would never leave my phone and go for a 3 hour drive. Equally, I wouldn't check it or take a call, unless it was something really important

Anne in Salem said...

I haven't been able to hear that piece of music without thinking of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd since I introduced my kids to this cartoon 15 years ago.

Ramesh is right - it's all in the balance. All things in moderation.

Is the NBA still playing?

Sriram Khé said...

Yes, it is all about balancing things out. But, I seem to worry about this more than you two do ...
Ramesh, maybe you should stop watching sports and watch Loony Tunes instead ;)

Anne in Salem said...

Did Hell freeze over? We three agree!!!

Sriram Khé said...

Hahahaha ...
It is the reality--we share some common core values about life, though we differ in the interpretations when it comes to economics, politics, religion, sports, ... ;)

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