I’m steamed. Technology has its good points, but it’s also making life increasingly stressful. Not news, but do we do anything about it?
Here’s what I mean. Remember, I’m a psychotherapist—a client related frustration about her teen’s time on the phone. It seems the girl and her friends were all sitting in the back seat of the car texting, not talking to each other—just one example of the phone excess. I asked the mom if she’d ever considered putting limits on the young teen’s phone use, like no calls or texts after a certain time in the evening. It had never occurred to Mom. I asked if the girl’s phone was in her room at night, alerting her to every text message at all hours. Mom said, “Maybe that’s why my daughter doesn’t sleep well.”
Then the next day another client related not sleeping well in general and being upset in particular by an email that pinged in during the middle of the night. She sleeps with her phone on the bed by her head.
Now, I’m not breaking confidentiality here because this hardly describes any specific person any of you would recognize. It’s an epidemic. These are smart, responsible people—but a little like lemmings rushing en masse off a cliff.
I even suspect, though I’m not the medical expert, that we haven’t begun to see the neurological consequences of all this cell phone use. The young, developing brain has got to be affected. The brain actually continues developing into young adulthood and never really stops working on itself like we formerly thought. So was popping popcorn with cell phones faked? Or does it matter since excessive cell phone use can’t be good for us anyway?
It’s not just cell phones close to the brain for hours, it’s the constant bombardment and stimulation. Years ago research determined the number of images per second the brain could absorb. The number we’re exposed to now in commercials and videos must border on enough to create a flicker rate to trigger an epileptic seizure.
This issue is similar to violence. Since the 1960’s research has shown that violence begets violence. Thank you, Albert Bandura. But has that consistent research finding done anything to alter the violence portrayed to children? Far from it. In fact, at a conference at which a friend presented on this topic to titans of the industry in the ’80s, the consensus was—they didn’t care—violence sells.
Then there’s inattention while driving. How did it ever happen that one can talk on the phone while driving? Split attention doesn’t work while hurtling in a guided missile of a vehicle. Oh, that’s right—it sells.
We doomsayers can wail all we want. Isolation in the guise of social media. Instant messaging (or whatever the current buzzword is) means instant relationship, means not a real relationship. How does empathy fully develop in the absence of body language and eye contact?
Wailing isn’t going to do any good without action. My generation, the if-it-feels-good-do-it generation, is reaping what we sowed in serial attachment figures for our kids. Those kids, now parents, are afraid to tell their kids “No” for fear the kids won’t love them. No wonder. What’s the next act of the drama?
A teenager, who shall remain nameless, was playing a game with me; she picked up her cell phone a few times to fire off no doubt meaningful replies to just-received texts. I suggested she put the phone away. “Auh,” she said with a huff, “That’s the way we are. Get used to it.”
Which brings me to referring you to a blog I read—Dr. Dennis Hensley, director of the professional writing program at Taylor University. Doc Hensley is nothing short of a writing guru, if you take the second definition in my dictionary— an influential teacher or popular expert. Read what he has to say about technology. I like his choice of the word “vapid”: offering nothing that is stimulating or challenging.
One last thought—an ad on the side of a bus read—”Ignore your teeth, they’ll go away.”
Cristine Eastin © 2012