By: |Muhammad Tabish|
In a world that is globally connected through the internet and its vast social media platforms, it is truly remarkable to find a group of people just talking, with their phones in their pockets or either on the table. Even then, there will always exist a chance when someone might pick up their phone to answer a text, a WhatsApp message, a Facebook notification or an Instagram like or a Twitter retweet. If nothing else, then the force of habit will make the person lift his phone, simply to unlock it, glance at the screen and put in back. It is an almost unconscious trigger that the post-technological boom generation has developed; the incessant need to be on one’s mobile devices is unlike any temptation the devil would have created.
Perhaps, even the devil has modernized and has resorted to using his cellphones to generate aforementioned notifications, thereby putting in less effort for more output. Ironic in my opinion.
The premise of the article “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk” by Sherry Turkle is the same. In her 2015 article for the New York Times, she mentions that a vast majority of people have admitted to using their phones in social gatherings but another majority among these do feel that they have ruined the moment by resorting to their habit.
On a similar scale, the author puts forth various examples, incidentally all of the adolescents, who have become, for a lack of better term, addicted to their mobile devices. What are the harmful effects of this addiction? Well, according to the author, the human side is heavily damaged. The loss of empathy and disassociation of having an understanding of emotions, facial expressions and body language. In short, the excessive use of mobile devices transforms one into a machine; a robotic persona develops in which a human being is entirely consumed by online interactions.
Is the premise entirely wrong? One would be very hard to find the thesis of Turkle to be proven wrong. Social gatherings nowadays revolve around taking selfies of everything; from food to births and funerals, everything has to be digitally captured and shared globally.
What we fail to understand is that the human desire and hunger for human interaction is unquenchable and although, it can be suppressed, it will always lead to a gaping hole in one’s desire column. Studies have linked the use of social media to depression, anxiety, poorer sleep quality, lower self-esteem, inattention, and hyperactivity — often in teens and adolescents (Mammoser).
Not only does it lead to mental problems, but various other developmental aspects of children’s mind takes place. The lack of social skills, which are developed in person and not through the web, are an essential tool to survive in the real world. Honesty is another. In virtual existence, one can be anything that they want to be and with little to no verification possible, honesty and truthfulness take a backseat and so do their consequences. If you are caught lying on the web, you delete and restart. In life, there is no reset button. You have to face the consequences of your actions and speech. According to one research, “Today’s youth miss out on critical social skills development when they spend the majority of their free time connected to and interacting through a screen.
They can also get lost in a world of unrealistic comparisons, cyberbullying, and feeling left out (Hurley).”
Another essential aspect that the teens miss out is how to hold a conversation with the other person and use their own mental faculties to facilitate discussions. The term “keyboard warriors” is not new and the fact that the web holds a plethora of unsubstantiated “facts” makes it even worse of objective learning. People today take everything at face value. Whatever shows up on one’s web feed is taken as true and then dished out as the truth. Finding actual facts has become a long lost art. Debating needlessly on viral trends is the new fad. Increasingly, social media is one place where time flies and productivity along with it. As one author writes in his article, “Social media sucks the productivity out of me like this every day, half my time consumed by digital procrastination (Doherty).”
But back to the point, the habit of mobile usage is killing this generation; not physically but emotionally. It is sucking the life out of our spirits and emotions. It is making us less human and we are not becoming any wiser to it. What technology is doing to us can be aptly described as turning us into machines. If we are what we eat, then surely we are also what we use and our use of mobile devices and social media is turning us into machines.
At this rate, there would not be a need for a self-aware artificial intelligence to lead the charge against humans because quite simply, we have already become machines ourselves.
The need of time now is to begin recuperative procedures. The diagnosis is in and it’s not looking good for the humans collectively. In truth, it may seem like a small problem but the magnitude of this problem has the writings of a global epidemic; one almost as lethal as any biological epidemic but aimed at the very center of what makes us human; our connectivity on a physical, human level with one another. If this sickness is not quarantined and eventually remedied, the coming generations will be devoid of any aspect of what we call as human interaction.
Rather they will all be glued to their screens, small and large, uninformed, unconcerned and unable to connect with one another except on social media. If there is an image befitting this imagination, one should perhaps watch Disney’s Wall-E and the humans aboard the spacecraft who have nothing but the virtual world. Ironically, in that film, a robot wakes them up from that existence and even more ironically, the solution in this real world may require something equally radical to take place.
The writer tweets at: https://twitter.com/theee_tabish