A joke currently circulating on the web:
One evening a teenager and his mother were sitting cosily, talking about life and death.
Teenager: “Mom, seriously, I think euthanasia makes perfect sense. Don’t you ever let me live like a vegetable one day, you know this state where you depend on machines to keep you alive. If you ever see me in such a state please unplug all life support equipment that keeps me alive. I’d rather die!”
The mother stood up and unplugged the TV, the Internet’s modem, the iPod, the iPad, the MP3 player, the BlackBerry, all laptops, the PlayStation, the Wii console, not forgetting the fixed-telephone line and the WiFi router.
The teenager nearly died that day.
Joke or not it sends shivers down your spine. Have we become so dependent on high-tech? For the vast majority of the active population, the world over, the answer leaves no doubt. The record holders may well be the South Koreans. It is believed that they are the most wired people in the world; after all it is the country of Samsung, LG Electronics, and the like.
The question is not anymore about being dependent or not, we are well past this stage. There are actually tests you can take — on the web of course, where else? — and that help you to evaluate your dependence level. I took one such test the other day on a French site and was surprised to learn that despite being in the IT business myself I was not in the addicted range as I was first thinking, but in the mildly dependent category, with little or no negative implications on my personal life. I sure hope the test is valid.
Therefore the question now is rather about the eventual damage this dependence may be doing to us.
Sarah Harris, on dailymail.co.uk, writes: “Excessive Internet use may cause parts of teenagers’ brains to waste away, a study reveals. Scientists discovered signs of atrophy of grey matter in the brains of heavy Internet users that grew worse over time. This could affect their concentration and memory, as well as their ability to make decisions.”
An article about American technology writer Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows” that appeared in The Telegraph was simply and bluntly titled “How the Internet is making us stupid”. It does not get more explicit.
Until about 2005 the main worry was the addiction to computer games, not to the general use of the various Internet and computer-based tools and devices. Today the multiplicity of these tools is upping the ante. Now you can be a high-tech addict without playing computer games at all, just by doing the crazy shuffle dance between your smartphones, your various tablets and your laptops.
There’s another clear sign of the evolution, or rather regression some would say. In the early days of the personal computer revolution many would use the expression “computer widow” to refer to those ladies whose husband or companion would neglect, preferring to spend “quality” time with his computer instead. The old term isn’t valid anymore since both genders are equally dependent on high-tech today.
Smartphones and tablets have their share of responsibility in the increase of dependence. Even some high-end DSLR cameras by Nikon or Canon can be fitted with the WiFi option so as to send taken photos wirelessly over Internet on the spot, for immediate posting on Facebook or e-mailing and sharing. Not a second wasted this way.
The environment can play an important role in one direction or in the other. For instance, if you live in Paris, New York or London you could do without a personal car, given the quality of public transport there, whereas in a city like Amman it is more challenging.
Similarly, an environment where the weather is fair, where parks, open air activities and sports facilities are widely available and affordable would make people spend less time using high-tech devices and communications, and more time taking care of their body’s health. “Mens sana in corpore sano” has never been more relevant in these times of Olympic Games.
Speaking of the Olympic Games...
Whereas you can download a certain number of applications on your Android smartphone or iPhone so as to be constantly updated with the games’ results, including the essential medals count, a smart Briton has come up with a most original app, one that goes in the radically opposite direction. For all those fed up with the games’ hype Greg Leuch from Free Art & Technology has made available on three Internet browsers, namely Safari, Chrome and FireFox, an extension that automatically hides all references and information pertaining to the games while you are browsing the web. Leuch promises you this way peace of mind till the end of the games on August 12. Et voilà.
If the trend is to study and to analyse the damage that dependence on high-tech devices may cause, I wonder if in parallel anyone would consider studying the consequences of not using technology in today’s world.