Science fiction writers have been warning about it for years — but more recently so have sociologists, medical doctors, psychologists, and an array of intellectuals from disparate disciplines.
It’s the effect on society when people are immersed and obsessed with advanced technologies.
In his 1991 book, The Saturated Self, social psychologist Kenneth Gergen warned that technology would become so pervasive that it would “saturate our lives” and cause a condition he called “multiphrenia.” This he described as people who are plugged into so many different media streams that they get pulled so many directions they lose their sense of individuality.
Others have written extensively on the fall-out of living in a world driven by technological determinism. A notable example is Alvin Toffler who published his landmark book, “Future Shock,” in 1970. He also brought out “The Third Wave” in 1980.
In these books, he writes about how technology is creating a situation in which people become “visibly disoriented and upset.” He said the emerging technological environment “comes at you rapidly” causing a sudden and acute crisis in the way people have learned to perceive and cope with a reality they thought was stable and in which they were comfortable.
Keep in mind that Toffler was issuing these warnings 30 and 40 years ago. Gergen’s book came out more than 20 years ago. History has proven them entirely correct.
In no situation is that more demonstrated than in the effect caused by the rapid surge in social media usage by billions of people. Today, it’s common for people to keep their faces glued to their smartphones during the day. The average person “checks their phone” 160 times a day. Then they spend hours every evening and weekend engaging with social media.
However, social media is not reality. It is virtual reality at best. The more time that people devote to being focused on what is essentially an “imitation reality,” the greater the chance that they become unmoored to what truly is real.
Many studies have already shown that social media immersion creates a host of negative psychological problems, the foremost of which is depression. Another biggie is a sense of alienation and a pervasive feeling of negativity about one’s fellow mankind and the state of the world at large.
Are there good outcomes from our immersion in technology? The short answer is yes, but clearly, this is a complex situation. Going forward into the Brave New World of technological determinism is the challenge of our age.