Cell Shock

Ayan Soofi reflects on our cell-phone dependency


by Ayan Soofi

‘For the sake of convenience, for the sake of efficiency, for the sake of progress we shall steamroll over the centuries old bond between human and environment.’ It seems to me that this is the motto that we will be slaved into believing by an increasingly majoritarian system. The concept that we need to incorporate smartphones into every aspect of our life and we simply cannot live without it is formulated on the basis of the same motto.

This role interconnected and constant connectivity based on smartphones play in our life is simply astonishing and to some degree frightening. The seeming addiction of the convenience that smart devices are offering is one that is following the same old path that nearly all ‘breakthrough’ human addictions followed.

As opium was once thought indispensable in nearly everywhere in 19th century similar to that smartphones are being hailed as indispensable part of the human living standard of 21st century. Opium was used as medicine and jolly entertainment. The irony is opium was thrust down the throat of China by British colonialists; Chinese are now thrusting smartphones down the throat of the entire world.

mindspeak-july-16We have an illusion of right to self-determination, whereby we come to believe of the superiority of our world view than to the market driven forces. We always forget opium was also a commodity for colonialists, it was marketed to create the demand that it enjoyed. If we think that people are naturally attracted to addiction thus the market was always there it would be a wishful thinking.

Widely used proof of concept for human craving for addictive indulgence is the mice and alcohol experiment where a mouse is kept in a cage with some food and some alcohol in a pot. It was observed that the mice would always go for the pot with alcohol and consequently face death by suffering from alcohol related complications.

But recently a new experiment has dismantled the ‘naturally negative’ theory. This experiment consist of a mouse in a cage along with a pot with food and a pot full of alcohol but the difference in this experiment is that there are some ‘toys’ in the cage for mouse to play with.  It was observed that in this case the mouse played with the toys and didn’t even touch the alcohol and was completely healthy. This proved the ‘naturally negative theory’ completely wrong.

The concept that every aspect of our life should have to be assisted in a nonstop basis by data infrastructure and it needs to be constantly monitored is a concept similar to the ‘naturally negative’ theory. Both the concepts provide an illusion of no better alternative and the only way forward is to accept it. It is marketed into our collective psyche that smart devices are indispensable. The capitalist process of creating demand for a community is something that is in use in this marketing campaign.

But what are the problems if we are being exploited, if our living standards are improved shouldn’t we be happy? Well, we can do that. But let’s ask ourselves why we should even consider about self-censoring our use of smartphones.

When you care for someone deeply you want to make sure that he/she feels special. One form of projection of care was wishing people on their Birthday. Remembering birthdays is to be honest a very difficult task. We remembered the birthday of people who we really loved and a wish on that day meant a very special connection. But when everyone is notified of everyone’s birthday by a data giant sitting in California that special meaning to the action is lost. That’s what I feel is missing in this high pace human communication. That human touch is lost.

Emotions are being lost from conversation, tears from the apologies and sincerity from the promises. That is what we are missing when we try to include every relationship in one mode of communication. As a result we grow indifferent to those words and consequently to those persons for whom those words were for.

The values that we stand for, as a society will be under threat if we over extend the use of the mechanized modes of communication.

Constant connectivity through smartphones and the advent of social media has coupled into one of the biggest consumer of human time. The repercussions of that is when we see that everyone else you know is having such a great time and you are certainly not passing every moment of your life advancing to a new success. This leads to depression and researchers have claimed that the effect of social media and constant connectivity also results in low self-esteem, depression, and social anxiety.

The basic reason for that is what we see in social media is the collection of best moments of the day of hundreds of people. But we treat that in our subconscious mind as the accomplishments of one person.  The person who seems to be having a great day is going through day just like you and me but because he is posting about a happy moment of his day it seems as if his whole day was happy like that.

We become increasingly depressed by thinking as if we were somehow unsuccessful. But the truth is that we are doing just fine but were victim of fragmented messages and fragmented messages are much more deadly than wrong messages. Social Media Anxiety Disorder is the medical term used for this disorder and it is now the third largest psychological disorder in the world, after alcoholism and depression.

During the World War I, nearly quarter of a million soldiers became the victim of utterly horrid disorder called ‘Shell Shock’. W H R Rivers, an English neurologist stated this to describe how Shell Shock patients felt, ‘Three assumptions about personal invulnerability were shattered the world as meaningful, as comprehensible and seeing oneself in a possible light.’

Does it remind us of last time we felt like this? Sure, it was not too long ago because it feels eerily similar to SMAD’s because the symptoms are very much alike.

We do not need to shun smartphones from our life; we just need to make sure we prioritise our preferred mode of communication wisely.


Ayan Soofi is a student of Dhaka University.


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