Technostress: Reclaiming Your Altered Self – Part II

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Life As Video Game

Reality in electronic space has become increasingly like living in a giant, distributed video game.  This life-like video game is comprised of instant reactions, within symbolic worlds peopled by avatar-like personalities, all programmed to play roles in a pseudo connection with each other’s alter ego. Many have hundreds of friends that they have never met in person and know little about. It’s friendship without real attachment.  How perfect for life in electronic space.

Our video game reality is allowing us to easily employ psychological numbing to defend against the horror of daily shootings and killings in schools, bars, streets, and almost any public space. Our representatives, especially Republicans, are able to rationalize this under the guise of protecting U.S. Constitution’s second amendment that guarantees the right to bear arms. Freedom to kill using automatic rifles and handguns is an everyday practice in video reality.

Fortunately, our video-like life in electronic space is producing vast feelings of loneliness and underlying despair. Humans, after all, are biologically wired with needs for intimacy, love, physical connection and attachment to people they actually care about and who care about them. They are beings capable of telling the truth about their altered lives and changing them for the better. No matter how tenuous the sensibility or recall, people often feel what is lacking in their lives.

What You Can Do

The psychological challenge of our time is to grasp the impact of electronic space on our sense of self, our capacity for love, and our need for genuine social connection to our young and each other. We need to create a viable future for human societies and this planet.

Below are simple things that you can to do to begin to reclaim your humanity and raise the issue for others. They are a simple start, not meant to solve the enormity of the problem.

  1. Pull the plug. Disconnect yourself and your kids, if you have them, from the computer and web. Make sure that you have sufficient down time during the day; start with 30 minutes, then 1 hour, and no connection to computer or mobile devices. Youth will scream and put up a fuss. Make sure that no devices are used at the dinner table. Use dinnertime or breakfasts on the weekend for real time exchange. Check in with your husband or wife or significant other and children.  Sit quietly alone or with family. Hold fast to computer and mobile limits.
  2. Schedule social time with family members at dinner. Only 30 percent of families have dinnertime together, and this fact tends to be a factor driven by social class, according to a recent Harvard study. Working class families spend virtually no time together at dinner, in spite of clear evidence that it is good for health and well being, and academic performance. The computer obviously didn’t free them from work.
  • Schedule time to meet with people and/or friends in person. If you are concerned about Covid be sure to establish acceptable physical distance. Reading body language and sensing closeness in real, complex and intimate ways is insufficient over Zoom. Margret Mead, anthropologist, once remarked that the world had become like a village; actually, a village is comprised of people with real face-to-face contact and needs.  
  • Intervene to help kids. Speak up and tell parents that giving their kids devices at restaurants, in public, in strollers, in the park or at the beach is not psychologically beneficial for their development. The research is clear: computer devices—and mobile—don’t help very young children learn. They learn better with modeling and communication with a live person.  It might be a good idea to try holding your child, and/or playing with them. I have intervened many times before, when I see a caregiver pay attention to their mobile, not their child. While it seems awkward at first, one or two parents thanked me.
  • Practice non-technological time, and different sense experience. Plant a plant or two, pick weeds, create sculpture out of clay, or play with Play Doh. Experience a different co-efficient of resistance. Try painting a painting on canvas.
  • Close down social media at minimum on your phone. You cannot make educated decisions based on images and lack of coherent content. The Alt-Right has done a masterful job of perverting truth, meaning approximation to what’s true, in all aspects of social media. Discuss the content of what you are seeing with family members and friends. Alert friends to questionable material.
  • Demand that our government and representatives put rules in place that require your permission and transparency of how your data is being used. Tell all social media and data companies to disclose use of information and seek your authorization. They should pay you for it.
  • The European Community has drafted extensive rules governing privacy and use of information on the web. We should adopt similar rules in the U.S. Then, put teeth into enforcing the new rules.

It may seem that being plugged in is hip, modern, or fun. However, sticking your kids with pretty machines instead of caring for them in real-time is causing psychological damage—which may not show up for years. The best action that you can take is to go cold turkey: put the phone, laptop, or desktop away, and just hang out with your intimate friends, or your children. You’ll need to get beyond the anxiety, but you can do it.  

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