If the only time you give yourself to really unwind is on annual holiday then the chances are you never really unwind. Digital mobile technology, with iPads and Smart phones, has made it harder to get away from work and relax. In 2014 more internet searches are done on Smart phones than from a desktop. Many people are potentially addicted to being connected to the internet (and therefore tied to work) and feel incomplete if they are out of contact even for part of a day.
This idea is starting to gain some traction as seen in a recent article by Scott Belsky in which he raises some powerful questions including ‘What has happened to downtime?’
What might happen to our world if we forget how to take time out to stop, to replenish and just be still?
We are in a cyber age with a 24 hour news cycle, 24 hour money markets and a global economy where national identity and issues are often dwarfed by multi-nationalism and advances in technology with which noone can keep pace.
As a keen observer of 21st Century life I detect some dangers and some potential answers which I would like to flag in this article.
5 Dangers Of 21st Century Living
- A loss of thinking time – by this I mean time to reflect, to grapple with issues until we get to the heart of a problem to truly solve it. We have computers to do the analysis of a zillion facts and we think once the facts are analysed and we have all the data then we can make decisions. But statistics and data needs to be interpreted by careful critical thinking of which there is a dearth. The dumbing down of journalism, education, philosophy and of belief systems in a highly visual entertainment age is producing a populace who are technically advanced but do not necessarily have the guiding principles by which to assess whether something is good or bad, helpful or harmful, important or worthless in the long term.
- A loss of the sense of wonder of being human – This is a by-product of the speed of change and technological advancement. Despite all the incredible advances, social demographers tell us that the gap between rich and poor is widening. More people are struggling to make a living and feel that they are falling behind in lifestyle choices and opportunity. There is an underlying stress building up across humanity, especially in the Western world, which has the effect of eroding hope and undermining a sense of wonder. While there are amazing developments happening in our world much of humanity is feeling more vulnerable and less valued.
- A loss of understanding of the processes of life – Some otherwise natural things can be sped up a little, e.g. the growth of a chicken from egg to when it is ready to be eaten. However many natural aspects of the human condition cannot be lasered or microwaved into being. There seems to be less understanding of how life really works, how character is formed, what it takes and how long it takes to build a strong relationship or to heal a broken heart. Increasingly people want things instantly. Childhood innocence has been eroded and sexualised by marketers and movie makers, with parents left unsure of clear guidelines. These and many other aspects of healthy human development take time to develop; more like the pace a tree grows than a production line producing another car or blueray recorder.
- A loss of understanding of the natural rhythm of life – We try to cram so much into our lives somehow afraid that we may miss out, and we often do not understand the need for downtime, for breaks, to relax and unwind, to replenish our soul. The crazy busy lives many lead come with a toll which is being paid in medication, various kinds of illegal and prescription drugs, relationship breakdown and other kinds of inner turmoil.
- Increasing mental health issues – 25% of all Income Protection Insurance claims in Australia are now due to psychological injuries (such as depression, stress, panic attacks, etc). Experts tell us that 1 in 4 will suffer from mental illness at some period in their life. So many are overwhelmed by life, by information overload and by the stress of going for more success.
Are there answers and where do they lie?
I am not advocating going back to the 1950’s when life was simpler and much slower paced. I love technology and the incredible advances that are being made every day.
However, I believe that to be truly human it is necessary to learn to disengage, unwind and replenish regularly. E.g. I’m switching my BlackBerry off on Sundays, and not having it in my bedroom at night. This goes back to old concepts of one day a week to rest and renew, like the sabbath rest in Judaism. In a highly automated and now digital technological age we are deluded if we think we can treat oursleves like mechanical automatons. We are human beings not machines.
Other answers include: learning how to build strong relationships, belonging to healthy community, having clear values to guide your life and decisions, and learning to uncover and work with your natural rhythm of life.
What do you think about these issues? I’d love to hear your comments.