Are we living in an electronic apocalypse and not even recognizing it as we text our way down the street, not noticing the people around us? Are we acting like zombies with our minds buried in our screens? In public, everyone is moving along fast, but do we really exist anymore? Are we really alive and free, interacting face to face? Where has the listening ear gone? Is all connection lost?
On Tim Lott’s Family column on The Guardian news site, these concerns come to life. High-tech phones and social media platforms have interconnected people over long distances, but humanity’s growing obsession and intoxication with the digital world is actually breaking real life bonds, destroying precious eye to eye contact.
We are losing empathy
Researcher Tim Lott longs for the days of old, describing the ugly reality that 21st century humanity is beginning to create. He wrote, “The physical apparatus we use to process the world is being re-shaped, and if we don’t preserve what we once had, our very sense of being will shift permanently and irreversibly. The content of our digital lives is no longer an appendage to life — it is reaching a point where it is life, in the sense that the imagination can conceive of nothing else.”
In researching the problem, he found some startling statistics. For one, the average teenager now manages 4,000 text messages a month. Five years ago, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that adolescents from 8 to 18 years of age were spending seven hours a day on handheld devices and phones. Tim also made a startling connection in his research. In a compilation of 72 studies, he found that the current online generation had 40 percent lower levels of empathy than previous generations.
Indeed, throwing away human interaction for electronic communication is destroying the human ability to relate, to perceive, to understand one another, and to accomplish new things. Technology destroys the empathetic connections between people. The addiction to hand-held screens cuts off one’s soul from the universe around him and the universe within him. Needing continuous partial attention also corrupts character, destroying human empathy for all living things.
“Human relationships now seem to be marked with what resembles a series of nervous tics — phone tics, PC tics, tablet tics,” wrote Lott.
He continues, “Where is the empty space into which we can climb in order to find ourselves? Not only are we losing its coordinates, a whole generation does not even know that it exists.”
Three ways to break the addiction to handheld devices
Here are three methods I have been using to disconnect myself from technology, while reconnecting my spirit with people and my spiritual self.
Leave the house and take a walk in the woods, in the park, in the country. Take no device on your adventure. Take a spouse, a sibling, a friend, if you like.
Invite people over and plan activities that force people to forget their phones and tablets. Board games are great for creating that present moment, face-to-face interaction.
Turn the devices off and practice yoga and meditation, looking inward, reconnecting with self and becoming aware of the energy in your body, not the devices’.