Technology and entertainment making us unhappy?

My Mom came down last evening from Bangalore. I was sharing my problems with her and asked why there is so much complexity in the world today. How fun it was when I was a kid and had endless hours of time to play with my friends, discuss and listen to stories with my family members, soaking up long, rambling conversations over loads of peanuts, playing games and such stuff.

Times have certainly changed.   Every day, I hear people questioning whether the global economy will allow us to sustain our love affair with cable, 24-hour TV, cell phones, internet. . .and whether we wouldn’t be better off without them.

Gadgets, toys and disposable income–inversely related to connections with people?

Are we, as Putnam once argued in Bowling Alone, experiencing a loss in ’social capital’ due to the various opportunities to ‘plug in’ to some form of technology or entertainment? Putnam’s book of course, focused on a predicament in the US, fretting over the lack of people involved in social organizations. Notably, that book was written from a US perspective, still, I hear people worrying in India about the same issues.

Can technologies and gadgets actually connect people? Think of the last time you saw a teenager free to use his/her cellphone at will.  It’s almost as if they’ve created a means in which they can stay in constant contact with others.  Internet can be used in much the same way.  Look at blogging, for example!  Here I am, typing up my ideas and engaging others out there in a conversation.  I ‘meet’ people all over the world, read what they have to say, get to know their way of thinking and their perspective on life, jump into discussions.  I may not be seeing these people face to face, but you cannot argue with the social nature of this media.

Is our disposable income and our use of technology taking away from real relationships? It’s hard for me to say.  I can certainly think of some examples of people I know for whom this is true.  They come home from work and turn on the TV or log into a video game and don’t look up again.  This hardly teaches a person to relate to others.  It hardly forges connections.  Then again, use of technology hardly has to mean avoiding social situations to the kind of extremes I’ve just mentioned. . .

Would a reduction in standard of living break our addiction to technology, making us . . .happier??

Would a sudden drop in income lead you to abandon some of your technological pastimes? When I discussed these things with my friends, many people pointed to cable, cell phones and other ‘gadgets’ as their first line of cuts.  So I suppose a sudden decline in standard of living might limit purchase and use of these technological commodities.

Would a sudden drop in time spent with electronics and entertainment make you a happier person? I must admit that I actually dread my cell phone.  I can’t really get used to it.  I have no desire to be in constant contact with people who are not actually with me.  I also have grown shockingly weary of social media like Facebook – I initially enjoyed it as a way to keep in touch with friends and promote my online blogs, but really I find myself unable to keep up with the virtual lives of others.  Still, I enjoy the internet and am addicted to the fact that if a strange question pops into my mind, I can dig around and find an answer.  And I do enjoy blogging and reading blogs.

But when I take time off, walking around Manipal and enjoying the beautiful climate post monsoon, I’m reminded that I can be happy for days on end without technology.

What do you think?

Do you think we will be forced to cut back on consumption of technology and entertainment in days to come?  Will it make us better, happier people??

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