The Internet, mental illness and you
A recent Newsweek cover story asks: "Is The Web Driving Us Mad?"
According to the article, there is now a growing body of evidence that our fascination with the Internet, smartphones, video games and related technology has become a clinical ADDICTION. Our ever-present hobbies have contributed to loneliness, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit disorder and "the sad delusion that the awful figurine you bought via Craigslist DOESN'T make your whole den look tacky."
I am not immune to the phenomenon. I admit to experiencing a certain endorphin rush when I Google my name and see that some newspaper has been kind enough to print one of my columns, and then becoming irritable when I have to wait for new stimuli. (But is this unique to electronic social media? Does it really differ from Delores becoming anxious when Madge is late bringing juicy neighborhood gossip to the backyard fence?)
Not only do social media rob us of exercise, nature appreciation and face-to-face human contact, but supposedly our hunger for email, Facebook posts, and Twitter tweets is rewiring the human brain -- and not in a good way. Scientists proclaim these warnings with confidence because "Hey, we've already said everything and its brother causes CANCER; now brain rewiring has dibs on the spotlight."
Admittedly, our brains have allegedly been rewired by just about every available scapegoat, going back through Walkman, Marilyn Monroe, Uncle Miltie, jazz, Alexander Graham Bell, gunpowder... Some of the oldest cave drawings have been translated to say, "Look, you can hunt or you can gather. I refuse to take any responsibility for the health of your cerebral cortex if you use the old Saber-toothed tiger burial ground to start a garden."
Can't someone do something to make the much-vaunted Real World more interesting, so we don't face such electronic temptations? Couldn't innocent-looking turtles be trained to perform hilarious head butts to the groin? Can we at least have some zany sound effects when great-aunts deliver such scintillating comments as "My, you're getting so tall -- and your cheeks still have such resiliency when I pinch them" and "Do the hep young folks still cut a rug to the sounds of Perry Como?"
Parents, start training little ladies and gentlemen how to bow, how to curtsy and How To Literally Roll On The Floor Laughing Your Butt Off.
Hurry. I hear plans for a federal addiction-breaking czar are in the works. Strategies call for addicts to be swept up and forced to chat on the front porch, listen to the warbling of non-angry birds and share warm family memories around the supper table. Hey, who needs a weather map app or online tutorials when you can enjoy "Quite a dry spell, ain't it?" and How To Stop Making Faces At Your Sister For Dummies?
Of course things could backfire. Unplugging our devices and taking a long nature hike could make us even more anxious to get home and post about the world of deer poop, mosquitoes, hornets, spiders and PARASITIC WORMS.
The clock is ticking. President Obama is expected to announce, "This brain rewiring is not the sort of CHANGE we should be HOPING for. I'll get right on this and -- what? All the rewiring is being done by the electricians' union? Never mind."
Danny Tyree welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org.