Never have we been so close; never have we felt so lonely

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Related as never before in human history, we are manipulated by a practical, attractive, overwhelming “menu” that encourages us to be hyper-connected, living a fictitious present.

Newsdesk (July 13, 2021, 20:39, Gaudium Press) “Boy, stop playing video games immediately, I’ve asked you three times already!”, “Let’s take a selfie!”, “Be careful you’re going to bump into someone for staring at your cell phone!”, “Let’s film the accident!” ” Dad, leave the cell phone and look at me, please!”These are common expressions in homes, offices, and on the streets.

We have never been so closely related to each other. Notifications overwhelm us; we are chased by the sound of incoming messages all the time. We are anxious to know what is happening or excited to communicate to others what we are doing. We no longer know how to live in the moment; we merely register it.

If the internet or WhatsApp is down, leaving the networks “silent,” in the light of being disconnected, they feel terrible loneliness… It’s hard to sit still, doing nothing. One no longer wanders, no longer observes the world around us, no longer interacts. One is suspicious of boredom, thinking that it will overwhelm us, which is not true; because often thoughts and ideas are generated from it. Many creative people rise from this.

World of the spontaneous, the immediate, the quick response

We find ourselves in the world of the spontaneous, the immediate, the quick response. People are taking pictures instead of enjoying the view or filming an accident before taking action for help. They are glued to a screen and not looking at the eyes. They speak with mere interjections. We stopped writing a few lines opting for ’emoticons’ or pictures that portray the answer.

How far will this go? Technology has taken over our relationships; we no longer socialize. Even two-year-old children, with unwary and unvigilant parents, are given the ‘electronic pacifier.’ So that they can run their finger over a screen at any time, standing still in front of it.
It would seem that the aim is to create an artificial bond between the individual and the device. Nowadays, cell phones or ‘smartphones’ interpret the owner’s feelings and classify their habitual behavior. They capture facial gestures or voice intonations, cataloging the emotional moments of the user throughout the day. Over time, they would become a kind of artificial extension of the owner of the device.

Another aspect of the “man-machine” link – to name one – is virtual assistance, already in many companies or businesses. When asking a company or restaurant for something, it is impossible to identify whether the person who answers is a human being. Everything is automated, robotized, de-humanized.

Some resist, but also some are anguished

Some resist a relationship of dependence on technology but, others feel anguished. They feel submitted to social networks, which ends up being anxiolytic for them.

Are we entering a new era? Good question. Previously, we considered nature to have therapeutic effects. A project on happiness measured some volunteers emotionally for years, concluding that men feel happier outdoors. However, a small percentage takes advantage of this.

Today, with a cell phone in one’s hands, one can communicate, study, work, and play. The signal is in on everywhere; there is wi-fi available even in parks. We live in a present that we elegantly called “virtual”; we interact only with the gadgets, through a screen. We have almost lost the use of words and the visual; we have moved to a quick click.

From being able to express ourselves through a sentence, spoken or written, we have moved to mere interjections, emoticons, or a mere drawing. I click, and there is my “communicative response.”

Immediacy, we live the immediate. Everything is fast; there is no time to think. Already the “owners” of the networks strive to retain more of the “customer’s” time on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or another network. They cause an effect on people that provokes a sensitive experience on the “product,” which is yourself. There is a dynamism where you always need to be connected. The “customers” get stuck on a gear. They had to reduce the actual retention time. We go to “TikTok” (15 seconds extended to 3 minutes), or “Short” (45 seconds), or “Reels” (15 seconds). Short and with empty content and millions of people logging into them.

Calm is becoming rare

There is no space for people to take their time at home or the office. Everything has to be fast because something else is coming. Another notification sound, another photo, or mini video comes in.

The technological industry promised us instant communication, ample information, simplified work, fun, living more and better, a whole new and extraordinary future for humanity. The opposite has happened. Related as never before in human history, we are manipulated by a practical, attractive, overwhelming “menu” that encourages us to be hyper-connected, living a fictitious present. We run the risk of losing – if many haven’t already lost – looking into each other’s eyes, the exchange of words, the mother’s affection, the hug between spouses or a friend.

The closeness and warmth of the relationship have diminished. We are de-humanizing ourselves, becoming more homogeneous, robotizing ourselves. The artificial is dominating – step by step – turning us into “zombies.”

Some attitudes to take that will help us:
1) Mastering technology and not allowing ourselves to be enslaved by it.
2) Knowing how to prioritize the moments we dedicate to it (outside working hours or mandatory study).
3) Recovering the time spent socializing with those around us in person and not “virtually” by talking face to face.
4) Monitor the use in children and teenagers.

A hymn from the liturgy of the hours says: “I went out in the morning among men and found so many rich who were poor; so many men battered without illusions.” Paraphrasing, we could say: “I found so many men and women, looking at a screen, anxious and miserable, without human relationships.”

May God, as St. John Paul II said in the face of the increasing difficulties in communications in 2002, since: ” it is impossible to be together, and the rare moments for that end up absorbed by the images of a television,” let ” introduce other very different images into daily life, those of the mystery that saves: the images of the Redeemer, and that of his Blessed Mother,” through the recitation of the rosary in the family. Being with Jesus at the center, the person shares “the joys and sorrows, one places in his hands one’s needs and projects, one obtains hope and strength for the journey” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 41)

Originally published in La Prensa Gráfica de El Salvador, 07-11-2021

By Father Fernando Gioia, EP

Compiled by Ena Alfaro

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