Computers, laptops, smartphones and other electronic devices are an integral part of our lives. However, just over 10 years ago they weren’t widely available. So how have our lives changed and is it for the better? Where would be without the internet? The art of map reading is dying fast because most cars are fitted with Satnavs. Is this good or bad?
The older generation may feel a bit challenge (or a lot!) but what about the digital natives? When they text during meals in restaurants are they being rude or is this just something they have grown up doing? Certainly for my generation it can feel uncomfortable. Shouldn’t we all be sitting around and talking, looking at each other eye to eye?
Facebook is just over 10 years old. Twitter came in two years later. Both have changed the way we communicate. And like any technical innovation there are good and bad things. For those who are shy, or suffer social anxiety, the advent of being able to communicate electronically, whilst not having to share the same physical space, may actually be very helpful. It can be the first step towards learning to be more at ease with expressing personal opinions.
For others if it is a way of avoiding interacting with people entirely and this can often be detrimental. I call them the ‘Rapunzel Generation’ - stuck in a tower, avoiding people, communicating through electric wires. For these teenagers, being ‘un-friended’ can mean the end of the world. Digital emigrants like me find this difficult to understand. Surely it is only a pseudo-friend, not like the real ones we had when we were teens? But if one of those friends cast us aside, we thought our world had ended. So should friends who are electronically connected be judged as any lesser friends?
Our friendships are not the only thing becoming redefined by digital living. The online porn industry is continually growing, for example. There is a general fear that the availability of free, sexually stimulating material will increase the number of sex addicts. Maybe, but maybe not. It is too early to tell. Just because alcohol is available doesn’t mean that everyone will become an alcoholic. But for those with attachment issues or who have experienced traumatic events in their lives, the use of porn to self-soothe may become addictive. And certainly therapists like me are seeing more men with delayed ejaculation problems which, in turn, is causing relationship problems.
This may tie in with early use of porn and masturbating. Not necessarily because the images are so stimulating but because the sensation of sexual penetration is so different to masturbation. We still have a lot to learn about technology and its effect; as the pace of its use increases we are having difficulty keeping up.
But if you personally are worried about your use of technology or you feel it is beginning to control your world then maybe you should explore this with a counsellor. You may not be addicted but if you feel that your life is been taken over perhaps you need to look at what electronic media gives you that the rest of your life doesn’t.
Owen Redahan is a therapist on the welldoing directory