There used to be an era when the curse on attention span was the television. In fact, it pushed a major religious sect in Nigeria to rename the television a ‘Satanic Box’. Now, it is the era of mobile phones, iPods and tablets and the various contents which come with them.
The strange thing is that these devices have stolen human attention with no signs of redemption in sight. Usually, when people are seated and intend to talk or flirt, they soon discover that the flow is punctuated by intermittent scrolling, texting and smiles not meant for the other party. Dating is now a struggle in divided attention where one of the parties struggle to keep the other one in check or they would be drawn into worlds beyond their surrounding in little time – except both parties agree to be without their digital gadgets.
These days, the only time we don’t use our gadgets actively is when we are sleeping, maybe except for those who sleep-walk. It is so disturbing that even air travellers obstinately turn a deaf ear to warnings on the dangers of using their mobile devices when travelling. I doubt that they do not know the fatal consequences their digital gadgets could cause their flight.
The totality of this is that, the allure to be somewhere else other than our immediate environment in a rapidly globalising world seems more attractive than to be well grounded in immediacy; the craving to be everywhere and be everything at the same time.
This is not to rule out any positivity of using mobile gadgets. It sure has more advantages in that it has improved the speed of communication and the ease of work. However, the downside to gadget addiction threatens the sustainability of human existence further as more people develop a dependence on mobile devices.
The story of a mother was once told, who sent a text to her daughter who was sitting beside her to go and bring her a cup of water downstairs. The daughter was not only taken aback, but she was also shocked at how their communication must have broken down. One can only wonder how such a mother would ever have deeper discussions with her daughter.
Cases of trolls and mobs who hide behind the anonymity their digital gadgets provide to foment terror on the vulnerable are also widely known on social media. It shows that some evil people have found succour in using digital gadgets as their launch base.
It is also no news that the correlation between gadget addiction and anxiety/depression has been scientifically ascertained. This drastic reduction in human interaction will have its own toll on mental health as the statistics rise on the number of people who feel lonely and dejected.
In addition, gadget addiction has robbed some of the ability to stay abreast of work and deliver precisely, having a tendency to procrastinate even urgent work. It is easy to go down this road of peril. This trend has also made gadget addicts have a more sedentary lifestyle – a major cause of obesity and being overweight which is another major cause of mortality.
The growing lack of empathy in the world can also be traced to this dissonance which digital gadgets have sunk between us and other people. People are now increasingly colder and are found wanting in real communication involving feelings and body language.
The negative effect of the gadget craze is not so pronounced as a self-inflicted threat to human existence because it has not yet happened at the rate and scale at which we will feel the severe impact. Gadget addiction is akin to living in a bubble, in a fantasy seeking escape from In-Real-Life (IRL) scenarios. This is why an individual may develop an unhealthy romantic obsession where the individual begins to reach out for something real or unreal, until the bubble bursts. Thus, digital gadget lovers may be prone to confusing reality with fantasy.
Knowing that technology is evolving still, and there may soon be a migration from mobile digital gadgets, it is a good time to reiterate that having the right balance of digital gadget attention and our real world is important so as not to put ourselves in a tight end.