The Danger of Digital Addiction

Are you addicted to social networks? (courtesy of Salsafrica Blog)

I've just watched a TED video featuring a highly impactful talk by psychologist Sherry Turkle on how we're all becoming increasingly connected while becoming increasingly alone. It really set me thinking. Hard.

Quoting from Sherry:

“We're lonely, but we're afraid of intimacy. And so from social networks to sociable robots, we're designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.”

Do spend some time watching the talk below:

By focusing our attention on the screens in front of us, we escape from the realities of our relationships and situations at work, at home and at play. We're constantly shifting our attention from one screen to another, from talking to a friend face-to-face to WhatsApp-ing another, from listening to a presentation to having our own backconversations on Twitter.

Our focus and concentration has been totally obliterated into bite-sized atoms. With hundreds or thousands of friends/followers/likers (and lurkers) to cultivate, all we can afford is a sentence here or a snide remark there.

When I look around me on public buses, trains and shopping centres, everybody is staring hard into a smartphone. I myself am guilty of this, although lately I immerse myself more in books than in ceaseless and unending updates on social networks.

As Sherry has rightfully pointed out, the new adage is "I share, therefore I am". By texting, sharing photos, commenting and posting videos of ourselves on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+ and myriad other platforms, we feel more complete, connected and "alive" as a being.

Like a friend who will never say "no" to you or tell you what you don't want to hear, our mobile devices sometimes become more important than the real flesh and blood person standing in front of you. How often have we spent time with our family members or friends, staring at the big or small screens in front of us, with nary a word passing between us?

Its a paradox that the more connected we are, the most isolated we end up becoming. What's especially ironical is that we are so addicted to these devices that we're afraid of being with ourselves. Literally and metaphorically.

The most crushing phenomenon of our 24/7, always online and always on lifestyles is its effect on the younger generation. Teens these days have lost the ability to conduct a decent conversation. They become fidgety, nervous, and agitated when pulled away from these screens.

Honestly speaking, so do many of us "non-teens"!

Perhaps now is the time for us to regain our physical, emotional and mental selves away from the digitised bits. Let us put away those devices when the time comes for us to talk to one another, play, laugh and sleep. Let us give the people around us - our family, our friends, our associates, our colleagues - our attention and focus wherever we can, even when they ramble. Let us learn to listen and to engage each other again.

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