Is screen media steadily marching us toward the end of times?
You know why I LOVE The Walking Dead television series?
Because I’m a nerd. I love to forever analyze how humans interact with nonhumans and how the nonvirtual interfaces with the virtual. But the confusing thing these days is that our virtual and nonvirtual worlds are so intertwined, it’s getting harder to tell them apart. I propose that the idea of zombies that lead us to the end of times is actually screen media.
My all time favorite novels are either fantasy or sci fi. I mostly love people, but I also love technology. I’m an introverted extrovert. Love to read. Love to surf the Internet and Facebook. Love to party. Most of all, I love to discuss apocalyptic, science fiction scenarios with real live humans (“If you could bring five people and five things on an island…”).
It turns out, I’m a moderate. Those firmly entrenched in an ideological camp call me a coward. But despite our strong opinions, most of us don’t fully practice what we preach. Take technology. It seems that people love to take a stance that they are either for it or against it. But regardless of your stance, few can argue that being technology resistant these days is a disability. We can work around it, but it would require significant sacrifice.
Computers are more than tools.
They are literally changing the structures of our brains. Scientists are identifying increased cortical thickness in commonly used neurological pathways. “ Use it or lose it” applies to brain development. Technology is changing us in ways we aren’t aware of, and in ways we don’t understand. Not only are we interacting with the world, and each other, differently, but we are absorbing information nuggets like an amoeba absorbs nutrients.
It’s time we face it. Unless you go to extraordinary lengths for online privacy, you no longer have any. Every valuable mouse click you make is captured, categorized, and used for profit. If you online shop for a refrigerator today, you will be retargeted with refrigerator ads tomorrow. And if you refuse to click? No worries, your Samsung television will record your conversations and use those for retargeting. Rich corporations with endless resources will find a way to get into your pocket in ways you haven’t even fathomed.
I recently went to see the fantasy/sci-fi thriller, Ex Machina, with my husband. I left spooked, saying I felt like this is the first time my eye could not distinguish CGI from reality. I spent the movie looking for a distortion in how the robots looked or moved, and there wasn’t one! I panicked a little bit thinking, how are we going to tell fake news from real news if even video footage can be faked?
If you’re still in denial that we are irreversibly computer-dependent à la Jetsons, consider…
14 ways we are already more Borg than human:
- We get speeding tickets from a camera and computer rather than a uniformed police officer.
- Computer voices lead us through endless mazes of flowchart selections as the only option for “customer service.”
- We order groceries with a button or a wand, and we pay with our thumbprint (see Amazon Dash and AmazonFresh).
- We breakup on text and bully through online ratings and social media shaming, happy to escape that messy feeling when your hurtful missile hits its victim (psychologists call this the online disinhibition effect).
- Our kids schedule online gaming playdates and text each other while hanging out.
- We seek validation through social media and chat rooms. Computers have become our soothing tonic. ((hug))
- Yesterday, you reached for the rewind button on your radio because you got distracted. And if it was a podcast, it actually worked.
- We learn about gender roles from webcomic trolls and sex from online porn.
- We can no longer remember things because our smartphone is our external hippocampal harddrive.
- Bank tellers greet us with, “Good afternoon, please swipe your card and enter your pin.”
- We are so exhausted from fractured attention and overload due to computer data, we have little energy left over for people. But we somehow scavenge enough for more screen media like TV or Facebook. (Please someone invent a can of wine-flavored oxygenated glucose.)
- My new client who begged not to have ANY notation on my computer because of fear for government interference isn’t even psychotic.
- Apple Watch
- Google Glass
Am I right? Screen media is our drug. We are never satiated. We are too hungry for it to go to bed on time. We are so hungry for it it’s what we check first thing in the morning. As a clinical psychologist, it allows me to reach an audience of thousands at this very moment instead of a single individual. Bottom line, it lights up the same pleasure center part of our brains that every drug of addiction does.
Our greatest fear is that technology will end our planet and our greatest hope is that it will save it.
Name five people and five things you want on your post-apocalyptic island (genies and meatball sub sandwich factories aren’t allowed). If you didn’t say your laptop, you’re lying.
“Siri, add closing and send.”
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Photo courtesy of the author