The space in between.
A series of photographs by photographer Eric Pickersgill have been circulating the internet this week. In case you've not seen them, Pickersgill has photographed people posing with their phones or screens, but has removed the screens themselves to highlight how technology has invaded our lives and our relationships. This is not the first comment on the use of technology or the invasion of social media, and nor will it be the last. Personally I try to keep the use of social media and gaming to a minimum in our house. No phones or tablets are allowed at the dinner table, no technology in the bedroom and lots of family time. In my house, communication and being with each other is important.
What I'd like to point out though in this blog is what might actually be going on when we are connected to the internet. The internet is full of stuff - some of it fantastic, some of fantasy. Some of it informative and some of it dangerous. As inviduals we seek out evidence in our day to day lives to confirm and support feelings and beliefs we have about ourselves and others. This is evident in what TV programmes we chose to watch, what newspapers we buy, the people we spend time with, the people on our Facebook friends list.
My hunch is that those people you have on your friends list will be people who share the same ideaologies as you, the same beliefs, the same fears, the same hopes. If they didn't you wouldn't be friends with them as their thoughts and feelings would at some level, go against yours and so they wouldn't 'make sense' to you. It's because you have a shared understanding you are able to communicate and understand them. So, it stands to reason that what they are posting you will, on some level, agree with whether it is scientifically based or in the realm of fantasy.
So, imagine now a society that spends each day actively filtering in and out the information they are absorbing each day. Social media sites have clever algorithms that only show you what you want to see - think a diet magazine only advertising food you CAN eat. It doesn't matter whether that food is good for you or not, it's there and so therefore you believe if you eat it you'll be as thin as the model advertising it. Each day, we are taking in information that confirm our thoughts and feelings about our selves, others and the world. Each day we are finding and absorbing information that reinforces this and on an uncoucious level filtering out what does not. In effect, each day not only do we shut out any meaningful human interaction, fail to make eye contact, dismiss another person but we put between that person and ourselves a wall of biases, misinformation, perhaps hatred and anger and we risk becoming blinkered in our thoughts and perceptions. As adults we may think this is OK, but I am concerned that this is not only happening in our adult society but also that for our children, as they seek out information that confirms their beliefs about themselves, others and the world at an often turbulent time of growth and change. If you, as an adult, are not there to listen and to filter and to reflect back other beliefs, then they only have the information that is so readily available on the internet. And, as I said before, not an awful lot of it is true.
So, before you pick up your phone to check social media, check a text, surf the net, whatever; before you say to other people in the room 'I don't want to be here with you just now', ask yourself who and what is taking your place.