In the days before television became a staple in most people’s homes, you sat around the radio and listened to the news. President Roosevelt had his Fireside Chats once a week and Churchill’s voice reverberated over the airwaves. People visualized what was happening in the world and families had discussions about world events. There was a connectedness that people felt toward one another.
With the advent of television, it wasn’t necessary to visualize much of anything. The atrocities of war were brought into the living rooms of most homes; people now ate their dinner while watching the blood and guts gushing out of victims’ bodies on the evening news. Within a short period of time, people became inured to the violence they were seeing because it was there every time you turned on the television. And, little by little that feeling of connectedness to one another diminished.
There used to be much more involvement in the lives of one’s neighbors. Nowadays, that interest has become a very superficial kind of caring, activated mostly when a person is pulled into the undertow of someone else’s emotions which happen to crisscross his own problems.
The world has become a busier place. The nuclear family has disappeared and technology, with the emergence of the super highway of information being spewed out by computers, has contributed to this feeling of detachment.
People sit at their computers, hiding behind screen names, and vent their anger and frustration in their daily lives at other people, who are also hiding behind screen names. There is a community of online relationships that have sprung up as a result of the instant reaching out across the Internet to the anonymous masses, and all these factors contribute to the feeling of detachment from people in the real world.
But the sword cuts both ways. While there is no doubt that the computer has played an enormous role in keeping people isolated from each other, it has also played an enormous role in keeping other people connected to society.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have given clients the homework assignment of not allowing them to be online because it is taking them away from their responsibilities and causing a disconnect in their relationships.
Conversely, I can’t tell you the number of times I have given clients the homework assignment of going on message boards to keep them interested in the world around them and to make some online friends when they are feeling isolated. This is especially true of shut-ins and people who can’t get around to join organizations to meet people.
Common sense and responsibility can’t be legislated but it would save an awful lot of relationships if they could be. While we have seen the positive effects of technology, we have also seen huge numbers of people becoming addicted to their computers and cell phones. They can barely exist without checking their emails and texting their network of family and friends.
And, before you object to the term, addiction, try to give up your computer and cell phone for one week and see if you don’t go through the same type of physical, emotional, and psychological withdrawal symptoms that an alcoholic or drug addict does.
My bet is that you will experience some of the tremors, headaches, anxiety, depression, racing heart, sweating, nausea, social isolation, and poor concentration that any addict does. It would also be a good test to see how deeply you are being affected by your usage of modern technology.