September 12, 2015
It is Pretty Fucking Mind Blowing, to consider how much has changed, in only the past several decades.
For the prior several million, it has been evolutionarily advantageous, to pay direct attention to the people around you.
Nowadays, we spend upwards of 20% of our day, completely ignoring our surroundings, while connected electronically, to somewhere else.
This is the first time, in the history of our species, when it has become normal to ignore the people that create meaning and harmony, in your everyday life.
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For most of our species’ existence, it has been really important to be connected to the people around you for survival, and civilizations were built from these patchworks of intimate communities. Then the telephone was invented in 1922, by Alexander Graham Bell, allowing people far away to become immediately relevant, in a way that started to Trump the other people in the room.
The Internet showed up in 1990, being a Nerd Oddity at first, with Email only becoming popular at first, for the masses. The Web grew quickly, and virtual personalities were now possible. Desktop computers became small enough fit in the palm of the hand, or crevasse of the couch.
So the NOW that we live in, has a myriad of impersonal ways to entertain and distract us, often feeling easier, more validating and less risky, compared to the ways we have connected, for as long Homo Sapiens have existed.
We are only now beginning to see the impact of VERY RECENT Human Behavior, on our Bodies and Planet.
Our diet, and addiction to sugar and salt, are changing the ways our bodies work, producing a host of really serious medical problems, killing our quality of life.
The impact of Corporate Interests on Earth, have led to increasing Carbon Emissions, likely past a Tipping Point, leading to a Positive Feedback Loop of Global Warming.
It is panic-inducing to realize that the Brain is an incredibly changeable thing, and can easily be rewired through repetitive activities.
When your BRAIN changes, your MIND changes how it makes decisions, and who it decides to spend its time working for.
SmartPhones, Tablets, and Drones, cause more and more of our Personal Time to be spent, paying attention to things that may not enrich us, but merely kill time until we die.
Electronic connections can be a good thing, in many ways, increasing our knowledge of other Cultures, Languages, Music, and Art. As well as introducing diverse individuals, providing an arena to recognize beneath it all, we desire connecting above almost anything.
Heck, you wouldn’t be reading this, without this technology.
A benefit of these capabilities, is the ability to find like minded people that share your point of view, and organize greater resources than may be available in your village, or basement. And in this way, very strong movements can occur, like Springtime in the Arab States.
But there are a few big downsides, and one inevitable consequence, of this new trend in human connection. One downside, is the danger factor, when we operate heavy machinery, while texting.
The other is the blurring of the lines between Work Time and Playtime.
Work Time is the time that you reasonably owe your employer, and this can definitely fluctuate with job satisfaction, and abilities. Playtime is your personal time spent investing in yourself, romantic relationship, immediate family relationships, and friends.
When we bring this Electronic Trojan Horse into the bedroom, with a hundred demanding email foot soldiers, ready to invade your conscience, the battle is over.
Work has won, and Play has lost.
And when this shift occurs, and we feel dispossessed of our own freedom, in how we choose to spend our time, we start to lose the wonder of what it means to be alive.
To be alive, truly alive, like walking at night, with fresh snowfall dropping in a sea of silence, is to feel free. Free from the obligations of your responsibilities, and even desires, to choose how to be. And to achieve this, we can’t be reaching down to our Best Friend, every few minutes, sometimes feeling Phantom Phone Pains, when we are separated.
When our attention is ours, these are our most powerful moments, where we can feel the Magic of being the Avatars we truly are.
But when our attention is intermittently interrupted, the Magic fades, as the Prefrontal Degrees Of Freedom give way to the Brainstem VLT Response.
Intermittent reward, even if that reward is a Text or Email, is like a form of Cocaine.
Because we initially started to use our Smartphones for social and Sexting reasons, every Text, Snapchat, Instagram, Tweet, and Email, still causes an Unconscious Brainstem Buzz, as a wee bit o’ Dopamine is squirted, for old times sake.
As the content behind the Chirp starts to morph into Business, where Pleasure once resided, we are both seduced, and back at Work again, without much foreplay.
The frog in the pot never notices the water get hotter, until it’s too late to be Princely.
And if we lose the Magic, and work more and more, in front of our Children and Teenagers; watching us (to learn how to be a Human), we risk teaching the wrong lessons. These disconnections in intimate family relationships, during the little time we actually spend together, can be the first dominoes of disconnected families, living in disconnected communities. Populations that don’t bother to ask each other about things that matter, preferring to spend time and money, on fake weapons to conquer fake empires.
The end result, in this complex Electrochemical Social Recipe, is individual Human Will is being overpowered by electronic devices, with capabilities that are now staggering.
You thought the Wolf was pretty tricky, becoming the Dog?
How about the con, where the Boss followed you home, and tapped you on the mental shoulder every 40 minutes, for Unpaid Overtime.
Or the one where the iPhone rode in the passenger seat, went on long walks, and vacations with you, soon becoming your new BFF?
Every close relationship, carries with it, a system of trade-offs.
Your new best friend, Pandora’s Pad, is filled with calculated messages, that feed you a very particular neural diet. This diet that can be modified, often without awareness; important nutrients extracted, in exchange for fluff and stuffing.
And when only a few of us have large enough platforms to distribute our messages, the power of those messages increases exponentially. This type of social editing means most of us are gorging on similar meme troughs.
A stew of distractions and rare meat that we spoil, by thinking we have contributed, by merely temporarily liking it, with our index mouse. And when we all feed from circumscribed bowls, the stratification of information is complete, and the Human Community begins to rewire.
This type of social interaction is seen in nature, specifically in insects like Bees and Ants.
It is the beginning of the Human Hive.
Simon Trepel, MD
Simon Trepel, MD FRCPC, is a practicing Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, in Winnipeg, Canada. He is an Assistant Professor, at the University Of Manitoba, in the Faculty of Medicine, and the Co-founder of the GDAAY Clinic. He is, more importantly, the proud Father of 2 beautiful Daughters. He writes in his spare time about things he knows something about, and occasionally about things he doesn’t; like Yoga, and Italian flavored coffees. He is currently addicted to Facebook, but is aware there is a problem.
Check out his Blog, called Simon Says Psych Stuff, at