“In Tibet you would send a letter and not expect a reply for six months. Now if people send an email and don’t get a reply in 30 seconds they get angry.” – Tai Situ
How long can you go without checking your email? If you find a juicy bit of gossip do you have to Tweet it to everyone you know? Do you SMS more than you talk? Most of us do.And it is making us stressed, depressed and utterly bored with life.
In this post I want to talk about how I believe technology is causing us a lot of problems. In particular I hope the parents reading this will carefully consider the impact all this technology is having on their children.
I am going to refer to “technology” a lot in this post so I thought I should clear up what I am talking about. Basically I am referring to media like Twitter, Facebook, iPhones and iPods, Blackberrys, etc. Technology that is providing entertainment. I am not referring to advances in medicine, international travel, etc.
The iPhone, the cafe and addiction
A few days ago I was sitting in a cafe waiting for a friend. I noticed that a lot of people were sitting alone and almost every one of them had an iPhone or Blackberry. Every new visitor to the cafe sat down and within 20 second was flipping away on the phone looking for apps, news or Twitter.
This, to me, is the epitome of the problem with technology – we cannot live without it. This media has become so addictive and we have come to rely on it so much, we wouldn’t know how to live without the constant stimulation. And therein lies the problem.
Technology and its links to stress, depression and boredom
We are constantly stimulated by technology. We are constantly in need of a “hit” and over time that need escalates, just like the need for a drug. We are addicted to technology and it is causing stress, depression and boredom. Here’s why:
Technology and stress
The reason I believe technology is causing us to be stresses is simple – we are speeding up too much. Our lives are lived in a constant rush and this is majorly caused by advancing technologies. Think about the news; 10 years ago if you wanted news you had to wait for the evening report or the paper in the morning. Now if you want news you go on Twitter to see if there is any Trending Topics or you jump on your mobile to see what the latest news app is saying. Its fast.
And while I can see the upsides to this (great access to information, etc.) I am also acutely aware that it is causing people problems. They cannot go for very long without an update. They feel like everything has to be done at a cracking pace. And they get stressed when they haven’t had a hit in a while.
Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits has a new eBook out which is all about living simply with minimal clutter. This is what he is talking about. All the technology and speed that we have in our lives is making us stressed and the sad thing is, we don’t need to be.
Technology and depression
The relationship between technology and depression is more subtle but I wanted to write about it because I have experienced it myself. I would love to hear some reader feedback about this one.
As my long time readers will know, I used to be a bit of a gamer. My brother and I would spend hours play Call of Duty, Counter Strike and even World of Warcraft. But after a while we both started noticing something – we were depressed. There was a really empty feeling that just wouldn’t go away. After a while we linked it to the games because we realized that we were so overstimulated and when the games were off we hit a low; kind of like a sugar hit that inevitably leads to a crash. But it was more long lasting and powerful.
And media and technology are like that. We are constantly Tweeting, Facebooking and listening to music that when it all stops at the end of the day we feel depressed. Our senses finally get a moment to relax and we feel terrible. We feel alone. I think that technology is making a lot of us depressed.
Technology and boredom
The last one is obvious as it is closely tied in with the other two. Technology is making us bored. Why? Because we need bigger and bigger hits. Listening to music is no longer exciting, we need a massive show or an LCD screen in our music player. The addition to stimulation is escalating.
I actually think this phenomena is quite dangerous as the younger generation now needs bigger hits to be entertained. The simple pleasures in life are no longer enough because they have experienced amazing things all the time from such a young age. I think it has a lot to do with why drugs and alcoholism are so prevalent. But I could be wrong.
Next time you have a break from work become aware of what you want to do. I am betting you shy away from relaxing and sitting back and grab for a phone, a TV or some Facebook action. Being still and alone is no longer enough for us.
Creating a need, not solving a problem
The interesting thing about this media and technology is that the new innovations do not solve a problem or need, they create one. In the old days marketing firms would sit down and think about some problems that people had and then try to create a technology to solve that problem. Not anymore! Now they create technologies and make us feel like we need it. In fact, I now think that these things create more problems than they solve.
What do you think?