Saturday, 5 October 2013

Digital Addiction

120739406_32681f5ff6_bIn a conversation elsewhere online, I wrote a response to a discussion about digital ‘addiction’ and whether or not being distracted (and distractible) by things like Facebook and texting was a symptom of addiction… it progressed a little to the stress caused to brains by screen flicker, which is where this begins:

I've read that research, too. I know that screen flicker is stimulating to brains, and there are, certainly a whole lot of people who don't understand the connection between their difficulty sleeping (or their chronic sleep deficit) and their daytime activity/stress levels.

But I, again, see this from a much broader perspective.

This is, to me, the fallout from a (sometimes intentionally) disconnected society. Families are split up into age groups at ever-earlier ages, now there is a movement afoot to 'make sure' all children are safely and 'correctly' cared for by moving them all into age-segregated daycares, a shift further back into infancy from the division of families created by mandatory, age-segregated public school. Some of this can be traced to child-labour laws, forcing kids out of the factories where they worked alongside their siblings and parents, some of it is intentionally-destabilizing people and making them easier to control (see Prussian army, c. 1700s) but a lot of it is ease of management for the staff --but the net effect is the same: families are fragmented at earlier and earlier ages. Does anyone know what the results of that are, for babies who are adapted to need a small handful of the same, steady people for the first 12-15 years of life to learn how to live in our complex cultures to form a stable sense of security within?

That lack of stable security is (sometimes intentionally) disrupted by the fragmentation of families, and results in insecure people: people who don't trust their instincts or their own needs, who often go for years and years without attempting to meet their needs, much less expecting to succeed at meeting them, self-loathing worriers who live in fear of being 'found out', who have no idea at all how to de-stress their own bodies or lives, who live in chronic stress, chronically overwhelmed, chronically insecure... who reach for things that make that insecurity feel further away for a while...

And then we (culturally, technologically) offer them what people have NEVER been any good at handling: abundance. An over-2959003013_b62599d8e4_babundance of choice (meaning, the stress of deciding from a 20-item menu adds to the stress of having 14 different size packages of differently-priced, different thickness and quality of toilet paper to choose from, along with 24/7 shopping online and in real life, 24/7 tv on 4000 channels, the non-stop internet and 24/7 live events and activities to do even in many very small towns...) means that, in very practical terms, there are no longer any natural limits. The sun NEVER goes down on what there is to choose from...

In fact, it's common now to run into people my age who simply do not understand 'we ran out' --at stores, restaurants, farms or system bandwidth. So accustomed we are to what looks to us like a 'never-ending supply' (sometimes of debt), it's ordinary for people to have a fit when the size they want is not available because there aren't any, they're so convinced there really are more somewhere but the annoying employee is too lazy to go get them...

The result looks like entitlement, but what it really is, I think, is just expecting there to be lots and lots of everything all the time because that's how life works, naturally, right?

But to the point of the wired world: there are no natural limits. It really simply never ends. The bottle never runs out, the well never runs dry, the opportunity to stay 'connected' at all times, for cheaper and cheaper access costs ... well, that's just the same as how people in Vietnam reacted when heroin was cheap and easier to get than food --who would turn down a hit that makes everything wonderful when without it life is pure stress 100% of the time?

If life wasn't pure stress, 100% of the time, do you think there would be as many people who has as much difficulty handling the distractions?

I don't.

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