Electronic Devices (and Content): The New Opium of the People?

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Red Winnipeg
Electronic Devices (and Content): The New Opium of the People?

Are electronic devices, and the content they make accessible, the new opium of the people?

I was in a North African country several years ago and a guide pointed to a village of crude huts and said, "If people have satellite dishes and refrigerators, then they are happy and complacent." The huts were bristling with satellite dishes.

But, is that phenomenon limited to poor North African countries? No.

Look at people in any public space here and a significant percentage of the people will be staring into brightly-lit rectangles. Even in restaurants when a group of people are having a meal together, chances are good that at least one or more of them will be doing the same thing. If people do this when they are in public, how much more do they do it in their homes when they are alone? And how much time do they choose to spend home alone because they have an electronic device to entertain them?

Does it concern anyone else that the ubiquity of electronic devices is numbing people to real concerns in the world and damaging relationships with other human beings in the non-virtual world?

Unionist

On the contrary, communications technology helps break the isolation that many felt in the past, when they had to leave the home and find people interested in: 1) being with them, and 2) Playing golf? Cards? Eating or drinking out? Not obvious for lots of people.

I don't see the problem. I suspect people are communicating with more people, more of the time, than ever before. Can't prove that.

As for "numbing people to real concerns" - don't get that either. Neither do I see it happening, nor do I see any possible connection with improved means of obtaining and conveying information and person-to-person communications.

Over to you, my virtual friend.

 

 

Mr. Magoo

I recall a two-panel cartoon from my youth:

Panel 1:  familiar, bearded philosopher/economist:  "Religion is the opiate of the masses!"

Panel 2:  a television set with a word balloon:  "You ain't seen nothing yet!"

We'll have this same discussion in fifty years when people can't get enough of the Holodeck.

iyraste1313

ubiquity numbing people?

Thanks for this thread, which deserves some serious comment!

first the numbing has to do with the prolifity of EMF on the brain tissue?

Civilizations rise and fall partly on the perceived reality of its people and their supported leadership.

You have to wonder about Canada...just name the issue, and show me the few that have but the slightest clue of our reality!

More and better communications?

While they get entertained in the gong show called 'politics'!?

NDPP

I have long been friends with a Somali family who has a little girl that sparkles and crackles with energy and is a delight to all that know her.

The other day I came upon her deeply absorbed in something silly on her newly discovered e-toy. She barely looked up.  It is what it is...

Mr. Magoo

Quote:
The other day I came upon her deeply absorbed in something silly on her newly discovered e-toy. She barely looked up.  It is what it is...

In 1500AD, she'd have been deeply absorbed in something silly in her newly discovered "printed book".

Well, probably not, as a girl in 1500, but you know what I mean.

NDPP

"the medium is the message" - MM

Mr. Magoo

I'm familiar with McLuhan's statement, but I don't follow your point.

And I guess I say this as someone whose parents were always urging me to get my nose out of a book and go run around in the weeds or some such.

What's the "message" of the digital medium.  Please don't say something silly like "Obey!" or "Don't think for yourself!" or whatever.  Think about it.  What's the message that the digital medium "is"?  And for bonus points, what's the message of a book, or TV, or a stage play, or whatever else grabs people's imaginations?

Unionist

Yeah, I've yet to see tyrannies distributing free smartphones and free bandwidth to all citizens and say, "Go forth and speak amongst each other!" Let me know when that happens.

 Thank God (I think She's the one) and Alan Turing and others for the internet, for computers, for free and instant communications, for providing the first ever real means in modern times to smash the monopoly of the wealthy over public opinion. They get to control everything, and we get to have "meaningful relationships" person to person? No way, not any more, prepare for defeat, you oligarchs!

 

 

NDPP

Yes, I can't say I particularly disagree , but as Mcluhan observed - these things are not value neutral either. The automobile can be a wonderful thing too, but then there's highways, gridlock and petroleum wars.

Tools have a range of possibility. As the NSA recognizes.

And for some they are 'new opium'.

And my little friend was probably watching 'Barney', not Lisitsa playing Beethoven or planning revolution. As I say, it is what it is.

Mr. Magoo

Quote:
And my little friend was probably watching 'Barney', not Lisitsa playing Beethoven or planning revolution.

Barney first aired in 1992, a year before web browsers could even display a still image, and a full fifteen years before the first iPhone.

If she was watching Barney, is that really because of iGadgets?

Slumberjack

Check out the 'fuck google' extract over at the anarchy thread.  Personally I think it's just as well that people have a wide variety of distractions available to them.  Since in large part the globalized corporatist reality is beyond anyone's control or influence, perhaps there's better luck to be had within the alternate ones that have been distributed.  A decaying society is like a decaying body nearing the end.  One can suffer the related effects, or one can get themselves hooked up to a bag of morphine infused solution and ride things out to their ultimate conclusion.

Red Winnipeg

Unionist wrote:

On the contrary, communications technology helps break the isolation that many felt in the past, when they had to leave the home and find people interested in: 1) being with them, and 2) Playing golf? Cards? Eating or drinking out? Not obvious for lots of people.

I don't see the problem. I suspect people are communicating with more people, more of the time, than ever before. Can't prove that.

As for "numbing people to real concerns" - don't get that either. Neither do I see it happening, nor do I see any possible connection with improved means of obtaining and conveying information and person-to-person communications.

Over to you, my virtual friend.

 

 

For many people, the connectivity, and the amount of information, that technology gives us is tremendous. I count myself among those people. I do virtually all of my non-book reading on the Internet. I love being connected to others via email and through instant messaging. For me, the technological and information revolution of the last couple of decades has been great. And, I suspect the same may be for you, unionist.

But there are many others who don't use technology to strengthen their connections with others or to enhance their understanding of the world around them. Instead, they isolate themselves from real interaction with others and they mindlessly surf trivial content and play games for hours on end.

In some respects, perhaps electronic connectivity is like alcohol. I enjoy alcohol but I don't need alcohol to have a good time (I'm perfectly happy in social settings without drinking a drop of it). Others, due to genetic or other reasons, are sucked into a very dark place by alcohol and there is nothing positive about alcohol in their lives. It disconnects them healthy interaction with our world.

One difference is that electronic connectivity is being established at a very early age with kids today (the number of very little kids who sit and stare into a brightly light rectangles vastly outnumbers those who have alcohol problems). It strikes me that solo connectivity with a device is becoming a cultural norm.

Red Winnipeg

Unionist wrote:

Yeah, I've yet to see tyrannies distributing free smartphones and free bandwidth to all citizens and say, "Go forth and speak amongst each other!" Let me know when that happens.

 Thank God (I think She's the one) and Alan Turing and others for the internet, for computers, for free and instant communications, for providing the first ever real means in modern times to smash the monopoly of the wealthy over public opinion. They get to control everything, and we get to have "meaningful relationships" person to person? No way, not any more, prepare for defeat, you oligarchs!

 

Those aspects of connectivity are all very positive.

Mr. Magoo

When I was a kid, the grownups said pretty much the same thing about television.  I recall being frequently scolded for "sitting in front of that thing when it's such a nice day out!".  Evidently I was supposed to prefer playing kick the can or whatever.

I also recall getting a lot of grief over talking with friends on the telephone.  My folks just couldn't understand why I'd want to just talk with one of my friends for a while -- to them, telephones were for Important Business, and phone conversations were supposed to be as brief as possible.  My parents' favourite schtick was to say "What if Grandma is sick and trying to call us, but she can't because you're gabbing about comic books with Steve????"

I think it kind of comes down to each adult generation expecting the next to like and enjoy and value all the same things they did, and then being surprised when that new generation likes and enjoys and values things we don't.  Sure, we all promised we'd never grow old, but we did.

Red Winnipeg

The average American watches about five hours of TV a day (and the average can't be much different in Canada). Generally, I would say your parents were right: TV is a sedentary "activity" and almost certainly has contributed to our obesity problem, among other health issues. Electronic devices have likely exacerbated that (I'm not the first person to anecdotally observe that it's less common for kinds to play outside in the neighborhoods than in the past). Like most things, moderation is the key, whether it's food, TV, alcohol, or using electronic devices.

Mr. Magoo

Quote:
I would say your parents were right: TV is a sedentary "activity" and almost certainly has contributed to our obesity problem, among other health issues. Electronic devices have likely exacerbated that (I'm not the first person to anecdotally observe that it's less common for kinds to play outside in the neighborhoods than in the past).

That may be true.  But I think there's still a significant component of adult judgementalism involved as well.

Otherwise, parents would be just as concerned about their kids doing other sedentary activities like reading a book, or colouring with crayons.

The difference?  Those adults sentimentally remember spending hours reading books and colouring with crayons.  So those are "good" ways of burning 12 calories per hour, and reading instant messages on something foreign to them isn't.

Red Winnipeg

As I said, Magoo, moderation in everything.

Mr. Magoo

Fair enough, though I still think it's unlikely that we'll look at someone with 2000 books in their home library and say "whoa, time for an intervention here!".