Come the personal revolution

I know old people are prone to live in the past as a way to deal with an increasingly confusing present: it’s called validation therapy and prevents the anxiety associated with a short term memory shattered by too much red wine. So let me reminisce for a moment and remember that when my kids went to preschool it involved playing in sand-pits, hanging from monkey bars, hugging new found friends, and having spats over who got to play with the favoured toys. To go back even further my preschool was working out the pecking order in the local park or the washhouse in downtown Nottingham while mum did the washing. For those growing up in Australia it probably involved more earthy learning watching the goings on in an animal farm. Getting access to a swing or a see-saw was a luxury.

But here we are in the techno-age. Three-and-a-half year old granddaughter was excited to the max to find that her new preschool was equipped with real computers to play with. Of course she recognised a computer because she can, like most of her peers, find her way around a website on her parents’ laptop and play ‘Dora Dora the Explorer’ games. She probably checks out the Dow Jones Index before logging off.

I have decided not to panic about this and believe that the emphasis in the school will be on messing around randomly with fellow inmates, learning the skills of socialisation with others, chasing things that bounce, and experiencing all the ups and downs of living with others.

But I’m not that confident that we aren’t moving in a direction in which technology rules us rather than us ruling it. This may end up with me being labelled as an old fuddy-duddy, a baby-boomer and child of the sixties but it worries me a lot. And I think that this may well be contributing to an increasing sense of alienation and disconnectedness with life that people feel. This breeds depression and anxiety, the dis-ease of the 21st century.

Sorry but I am continuously stunned to see people ‘having a coffee’ texting away while supposedly spending time with their acquaintances: it’s a case of being there but not really being there. How many times have you been talking to someone and they choose to answer their mobile or you are chatting on the phone and the other person responds to a ‘call waiting’. I have often been talking to someone in an office environment and they have responded to emails when their computer ‘beeped’: maybe it was going to explode if they didn’t disarm it by clicking a key. Worse, maybe they would miss out on the instant gratification of someone making contact. They have to be very lonely.

Anyone for a revolution? I’d like to suggest we make more of personal contact and exploring the natural things in life: in psychology we call this mindfulness or being present in the moment. This means less time, rather than more, with technology, and using it rather than allowing it to use us.

Dr Stewart Hase is an Adjunct Fellow with Southern Cross University and a consultant psychologist.


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