Friday, August 26, 2016

Trapped in the Matrix

I wonder what makes video games, social media, texting, &c. so compulsive for so many people. It's ominous to see how quickly it's taking over. 

Of course, once people become addicted to something, that takes on a life of its own. So at that stage there's no point asking why they do it. But the question is how they get hooked in the first place. What makes it so addictive? 

Here's my armchair theory: I'm guessing people have already been conditioned by so much artificial stimuli that they were predisposed to develop a psychological dependence on nonstop artificial stimuli. 

By that I mean, even before the advent of smart phones or Facebook or the Internet, you had TV, movies, and recorded music. That was readily available and very prevalent. People get accustomed to having so much artificial stimuli that smart phones just tip the balance. 

Problem is when people have an incessant need for constant external stimuli. They can't stand silence. They can't use their own imagination to occupy their minds. It has to come from the outside. 

Even natural stimuli like mountain views, seascapes, or the sound of surf, is no longer strong enough. They've become so restless. So fidgety. 

I also think there's an element of self-importance. What if someone can't reach me at any time? What might happen? 

In times past, when people left the house, they were incommunicado. They might be incommunicado for hours. If you wanted to contact them, you had to wait until they got home. But we've become so impatient. 

I don't object to having a cellphone on your person in case of family emergency. But the idea that you have to be available the instant someone wants to talk to you is narcissistic. The world won't fall apart if you can't be reached for a few hours. Humans survived without cellphones for millennia. Heck, humans survived without landlines for millennia. 

Unfortunately, some people now have jobs that require them to be just a phone call away all the time. So they don't have a choice.  

BTW, one benefit of intramural sports is that when boys are playing a sport, they have to put the cellphone down and give the game their undivided attention. Having to give anything your undivided attention is increasingly rare. But when you play football, basketball, hockey, soccer, &c., your total focus has to be on the state of play. 

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