Once upon a time we lived in caves and our only form of evening entertainment was seeing how fast we could run away from a Sabre toothed tiger.
It was a fun game, if a little dangerous.
Even 30 years ago we would bring out that game of Monopoly and gather round as a family while we all fight over who gets to be the race car. Times were simpler and times were good.
Then a bunch of clever people invented the internet and ruined mankind.
Okay I’m being dramatic but over the ages, what we consider to be socially acceptable and even fun has changed significantly and technology is largely to blame. Kids these days spend most of their waking hours in front of a television or PC monitor instead of playing hide and seek outside.
Yes we may be living longer, the air may be cleaner and we are becoming more intelligent, but as a society we have to be careful that we don’t allow modern life and most importantly, technology, to rise up like Skynet and take full control of our everyday lives.
It could end up screwing with your mind. For example…
1. Technology is turning everyone into lazy drug addicts
How many of you have taken some mind altering chemicals in your time? Those of you from the 60’s can put your hands down, we know all about you lot.
Is there anyone else willing to admit to a bit of drug induced tomfoolery?
Well how would you feel if I told you that you are becoming slaves to a little substance that goes by the name of Dopamine?
This chemical is basically the main reason why we are able to drag ourselves out of bed in the morning and convince the world that we are normal functioning members of society. Its party trick is motivation. Without it, we would lose focus, become lazy, absent minded, easily bored and very ADD.
It enables us to see the end goal in the tasks we do. The riches at the end of our treasure hunt. It forms that link between what we want to do and why we want to do it, without it we won’t even get started.
The problem is that in today’s world, our brains are being stimulated all the time, with no off switch. Every time you receive a phone call or a text message, your brain releases a little bit of dopamine – you just HAVE to see who it is. It can even make you feel anxious and irritable.
Put a bottle of vodka in front of an alcoholic and tell them not to touch it. What’s the outcome going to be? It’s exactly the same, except you should still have control of your bodily functions.
I’ve talked before about Facebook and how it is trying to control your life, and one of the ways it does this best is through its news feed page. Even though everyone moans about the endless stream of baby photos and inane drivel that populate our screens, we keep going back just in case we miss anything important.
In the old days people used to peer out their windows at the neighbours for a bit of gossip, these days we just sit there, staring blankly, waiting for the page to refresh for the latest onslaught of ignorance, poor grammar and the previous evening’s drunken photos.
This constant rush of Dopamine and other feel good chemicals means, like any drug, we become desensitised to it and we need more to achieve the same effect.
Over time our ability to concentrate will diminish and we will seek out more stimulation just to keep ourselves occupied.
It’s the only explanation I can think of as to why Candy Crush Saga even exists…
2. Social media allows us to escape blame for our actions
So we have acknowledged that modern technology is interfering in our lives in a big way, especially social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, but how much thought have you given to its influence on your behaviour?
Can you honestly say that you speak to people the same way in text as you do face to face?
Of course if you frequently use the acronyms ‘LOL’ or ‘PMSL’ when speaking to someone in person then you probably need to take a long hard look at what you’re doing with your life.
In most cases though, using social media, emails and text messaging as a way to communicate has a way of creating an illusion that what we are saying is in some way less significant than if it were face to face.
Not just that, but we are willing to push the boundaries of what we believe we can get away with.
Twitter especially seems to be the idiots preferred method of getting yourself into trouble with the least amount of effort. It seems like every day we read a story of someone being arrested or condemned in the media for Tweeting something stupid.
Recently, 17 year old Paris Brown made the headlines as she was forced to resign from her position as the UK’S first ‘Youth crime commissioner’, for using Twitter to broadcast her borderline homophobic and racist comments.
What a lovely girl.
In more everyday situations, I think most of us have said things on Facebook or through a chat service that we would be too afraid to say in person. It’s easier to ask someone out via text than it is using your own voice, it’s less embarrassing and if it all goes wrong you can always blame it on someone else.
On the flip side there a lot of people out there who prefer to end relationships or give out bad news via text or email. Companies rarely ring unsuccessful applicants these days, preferring to send a letter or quite often, nothing at all.
It’s easy to fob someone off if you don’t have to directly communicate with them – Even if it makes you a terrible person.
3. Freedom of information makes us believe the world is getting worse
We all love a good viral video.
You’re bored at work, doing your best ‘hard at work’ impression while desperately scouring the internet looking at yet more ways to procrastinate when you come across a funny video of a dog pooing on a baby.
Oh what joys the world can bring.
You click around some more and see a video being shared on Facebook of a man having his head chopped off. It’s been shared 5 million times so you think it must be pretty good right?
You click it and 30 seconds later you vent your frustrations via your status update.
‘OMG I can’t believe what I’ve just seen on FB!!! The world is a sick place.. we’re all dooooomed!’
Newsflash – the world isn’t necessarily getting worse. It’s just that with the invention of the internet, and again, social media, we now have the ability to see these incidences as they happen.
When Genghis Khan rampaged through Asia, killing people left right and centre, he didn’t pause halfway through to take a picture on Instagram with the caption;
‘Cut off another head, what am I like? LOL’
Everything that happens now immediately becomes world news. We don’t even have to wait for the morning newspaper because most people own a smartphone so therefore the world now has several billion ‘journalists and photographers’ all willing to snap away and share their findings with the internet.
Also there is no guarantee that the news we see is even real.
We are led to believe that the media has a responsibility to broadcast true information but that isn’t the case. The Daily Mail for example actually publishes fake stories, either knowingly or unknowingly, and before you know it, millions of people have read (and believed) it and shared it among their friends.
4. Everything that you do is being monitored
You’ve all heard of Big Brother right?
No not the horrific TV show but the term coined by George Orwell to describe the way that the government watches your every move. First used in his book ‘Nineteen eighty four’ it has become synonymous with the idea that everything that you do is being monitored.
The UK is thought to have the most CCTV cameras per 1000 people than anywhere else on earth.
Basically if you’re in a well-populated, urban part of the UK then the chances are you are unwittingly becoming the star of your own TV show.
Of course the powers-that-be will tell us that this is for our own protection but how do we really know the extent as to which our privacy is being invaded?
Our smartphones can be hacked by anyone with the right bit of software and our laptops are at the mercy of Google and their thieving data grabbing cars.
This is even before we get into how they record every internet search we make to create a profile of who we are and our online behaviour.
Largely though this ubiquitous snooping happens without our knowledge and as they say, ignorance is bliss. As long as it’s not actively interfering with our everyday lives then I suppose in some ways it can make us safer. Terrorists have a much harder time flying planes into buildings than they did in the past and part of this is down to surveillance technology and the ability to monitor communications between suspects.
But can it go too far?
The recent Boston bombings proved that by feeding our paranoia with a video camera and an internet connection, we can make mad judgement calls and in turn, potentially ruin people’s lives.
The internet site ‘Reddit’ had to issue an apology after its users mistakenly identified Sunil Tripathi as a suspect in the bombing. Also recently, Ryan Lanza, the brother of the Newton School shooting suspect, Adam Lanza, had to take to his Facebook account to dispel the rumours that he was involved in the incident.
In our quest to provide insurance and stability to the world, it’s all too easy to misuse or even abuse the information that most of us now have access to.
5. You will never be satisfied with what you have
Life was indeed simpler back in the good old days. We went to school, graduated, found a career, bought a house, got married, settled down with a family and then waited patiently for retirement and the ability to do absolutely nothing without being moaned at.
Somewhere along the line that lifestyle became boring. We didn’t want the conventional path, we wanted more.
The only reason we wanted more is because the world showed us that it WAS possible to have more – At least theoretically.
Think about it, why do we need a whole aisle at the supermarket dedicated to wiping your bum? There are literally hundreds of different brands, sizes, colours, types etc. They all do the same job and if we were presented with just one plain white loo roll. Nobody would moan about that. Nobody woke up one morning and suddenly declared themselves dissatisfied with a 2ply paper.
If it’s not thick enough, fold the damn thing and shut up.
Point is; we only want more when we are given the opportunity for more. It’s human nature to want what we can’t have and by showing us a glimpse of the forbidden fruits, what we currently have and do seems to pale in comparison.
Most of us would be happy with our body if it wasn’t for the constant influx of Photoshopped images that find our way into our magazines and TV shows on a daily basis, and what does that do? It causes more and more people to look better and in turn makes it even more important that you stick to that diet or exercise regime just to keep up.
Think you’re happy with your sex life? How can you be when you watch porn and you wonder why your partner can’t contort themselves into the positions shown on screen?
Yes you might think you have a great job but you keep reading stories of these young entrepreneurs making millions out of nothing. Why can’t you do that? Suddenly your 30k job seems rubbish and bland.
In the past a well-balanced life was the ideal. These days it seems to be about money and the pursuit of prestige and status, often to the detriment of a personal life. Money will never be as good as time as what use is a big bank balance if you don’t have the opportunity to spend it?
Having ambition and wanting to better yourself is great, but to blindly want more just because it is valued by others or because you’ve created a false idea of future happiness will only hurt you in the long run.
Learn to appreciate what you currently have before you seek out more.
If you wish to join me in being totally ironic, then help share this article using those little social media icons to the left. You’re probably on Facebook now anyway… 😉
These are all amazing points and I cannot help but agree with you. I was just talking about number three with a friend of mine yesterday. It’s insane to always hear about how the world is so much scarier now when statistics will show you we’re living in the safest times. I wish the media would portray more good things but I don’t suppose that would happen anytime soon.
Vincent recently posted..Stop Trying to Be Perfect! How to Live Life Dangerously
The problem is that happy news is deemed as being boring and thus will always lose out to sensationalist headlines that are created to sell a newspaper etc.
Hi Jamie! First off, love your blog. Always insightful and interesting. I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with this post. Especially number 5. I think the “comparing ourselves to others on the internet” can also effect creativity. The Internet is a great way to get ideas but at the same time I look at what others do and sometimes instead of inspiration I just feel inadequate. Like why should I even bother trying to create since mine could never be as good or perfect as someone else’s. I’ve had friends mention they feel this way sometimes too. What do you think?
The thing to remember is that there is always room for one more. Like I gave with the toilet roll example, if you provide something, people will want it. It’s just human nature. Thanks for the comment Elizabeth!
This is so true and quite scary. All this technology is a blessing in some ways and very unhealthy in others. If we could learn to use it wisely the world could benefit greatly. The toilet roll issue is so true, as long as it does the job there’s really no need for an upgrade, its like trading in bank notes at your bank for crisp new ones.
Great articles I’m enjoying reading them.