technology generation
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With children nowadays rather having an iPad than a Barbie or a TV over a new bike, Eeevee’s Amy Van De Casteele plugs in and looks at what effect technology is having on the ‘Electronic Generation’…

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Modern technology has gone from strength to strength throughout the course of the last 20 or 30 years – ever since the first doorstop-sized mobile phones and clunky laptop PC’s were unleashed on the market.
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Finding its roots in places like Europe, America and Japan, the mania for technology has spread even into some of the globe’s more isolated regions. These days it seems like everyone has a mobile phone, from bankers to rice farmers, and many of us also own iPods, iPads, sleek new laptops and tablets. We spend sizeable chunks of our day-to-day life connected to these machines and to each other, communicating via a bewildering array of social networking platforms. From Facebook to Skype to Instagram we are constantly uploading snapshots of our daily existence, snooping into the lives of our friends and colleagues, and sharing everything from job promotions to divorce updates on our profile pages.
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Yet despite this constant communication, the “electronic generation” – as we have become – is inexorably slipping into a pit of loneliness and depression. Continually sharing information is all very well, but when that sharing is devoid of any real meaning – when it means sitting alone staring at a computer screen rather than connecting with people on a real-life, face to face basis – we can’t help but begin to feel disconnected, to feel socially and spiritually cut off from life and all its joys.
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Just recently Gary Turk wrote, produced and performed a YouTube video on this very subject, a video which subsequently went viral and has proved to be a real talking point for both tech users and tech cynics across the globe. Hammering his point home through poetry and a poignant visual love story, he aptly communicated just what people miss out on when they spend so many hours a day glued to the screens of their phones or laptops – namely the many subtly beautiful elements that make up human life, such as casual flirtations, passionate love affairs, long-term relationships, humorous day-to-day events, birth, marriage and death. The message he imparts so vividly through his video is that to experience all of these meaningful experiences through the impersonal filter of a phone camera or a computer screen is almost as bad as not experiencing them at all…and in fact we run the risk of missing out on them all entirely.
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The simple fact of the matter, as any psychologist could tell you, is that human beings are an inherently social animal but we are confusing social networking with being sociable — confusing the acquisition of Facebook friends or Twitter followers with forming genuine relationships based on mutual interests, connections, shared laughter and experiences. The Western world is slowly but surely turning in on itself, imploding on both societal and spiritual levels, leaving countless thousands of us feeling disconnected and awash in a cold emotionless sea of technology and pointless communication.
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Another damaging side effect of this reliance on “soulless” social networking, with its photo-sharing platforms such as Instagram and SnapChat, is the increasing societal obsession with perfection and shallow beauty. After all, very few of us share profile pictures or holiday photos in which we look anything less than our best. Very few of us share the real, raw, painful moments of our lives. Instead we post only our “best” pictures, share only our smiles and our moments of blinding humour. Flaws and imperfections are covered up, smoothed over, deleted. Our real selves, with all of their human foibles and quirks, are carefully concealed in a bid to make complete strangers “Like” us, in more ways than one.
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But perfection is illusory and impossible, and this fanatic desire to share only the happy, the successful and the beautiful aspects of our lives is leading us to deny our very humanity, to distance ourselves from the very flaws and charming idiosyncrasies that make us who we are. As a result we are turning into a generation of Technicolor robots who will perhaps soon become incapable of forming and sustaining genuine long-term relationships, which, after all, are not a metaphorical bed of roses – which, indeed, can be messy and difficult and full of petty arguments about forgotten milk and toilet seats left up.
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Entranced by the images we see every day on the computer screen we are forgetting that other human beings are not just the smiling, Photo-shopped faces we see on Instagram; we all have our imperfections, our less-than-desirable character traits. It is through learning to love and celebrate those aspects of ourselves, through learning to see the beauty in our partner’s “flaws”, that we become able to form a deep and meaningful connection – not just to our chosen mate but to life itself.
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Many of us are becoming more aware of this distortion between the real world and the world portrayed on social media. Growing numbers of us are responding to that hollow, empty feeling inside by reassessing our lives, by groping for meaning and desperately seeking some form of spiritual sustenance. Some people do this by uprooting their lives and journeying overseas, immersing themselves in more “primitive” cultures where human connections are still based on chatting over cups of tea, helping each other with grocery shopping or attending traditional festivals and dances. Others struggle to assuage their loneliness by turning to online dating sites or going to bars and having one night stands with strangers in a desperate bid to feel some sort of tangible human connection, to feel the warmth of human skin rather than cold hard computer keys.
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It is a sad but undeniable fact that while highly innovative modern technology may have made our lives easier when it comes to finding jobs, grocery shopping and making tenuous connections on sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, the price we are paying for this level of ease is the very erosion of our human sociability; the gradual destruction of the social fabric of our society.
If we want to have any hope of fixing this problem before it continues to grow, if we want to fill that void inside ourselves, the question we must surely ask of ourselves is this: are we willing to sacrifice vast chunks of our lives to meaningless technology – or do we want to put our phones down, switch off our computers and embrace real life? By which I mean Life with a capital ‘L’, full of ugliness and imperfection and obstacles; beautiful, brash and complicated life, which can be smelt and felt and heard and savoured – not through a screen but through our own bodies, through our interactions with friends, loved ones and colleagues…
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Through being entirely, unapologetically human, rather than part-machine.
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