While much has been speculated about the withdrawal of Bernard Tomic from the reality television show “Celebrity Get Me Out of Here”, an important social message has been overlooked. Bernard reassures us he is not depressed, but started to feel that way when separated from his friends and his technology.
Todays’ youth are living in a frenetic time, where every waking moment is filled with busyness. The quiet spaces that allowed previous generations to reflect on life are now filled with an abundance of technology interactions - computer games, social media, web surfing. Quiet spaces are an important part of human development, a place where one gets to reflect on life. An opportunity to self-appraise, to figure out who you are and where you belong in the world. To identify one’s values, attitudes and behaviours and to ask important questions about where they are headed and what if anything needs changing.
There is emotional discomfort in reflecting, especially if one feels they have not lived up to their own or someone else’s expectations. Equally important, but less known is the real physical discomfort that comes from technology withdrawal. While research exists on the addictive nature of technology, especially on a developing brain, society remains reluctant to do anything about it. Distracting oneself with technology not only interferes with the personal growth that can come through reflection and introspection, it also has a dramatic impact on the chemicals released in the brain.
Engagement in technology gives the user ongoing squirts of highly arousing brain chemicals that keeps them engaged. Program designers know when the brain starts to lose interest in an activity, such as a computer game, so they set a new challenge then reward it, knowing the brain will release just enough of those feel good chemicals to keep the participant engaged longer. The longer they remain engaged the more money the game designer earns, or the more likely an advertiser can sell them something. It’s economics, but it messing with our kids heads. When separated from their technology there is a physical feeling of withdrawal, some may feel agitated others depressed, thus there is a drive to re-engage, to rid oneself of these unpleasant feelings. Individuals can become locked in a cycle of dependency. With enough quiet down-time these feelings will subside and individual will feel renewed, but it takes time and patience.
So, take heed from Tomic’s experience, our kids need to know when to switch-off. They need technology free opportunities in their lives so they don’t experience quiet spaces as boring or uncomfortable. Quiet-time and introspection are an important learning requirement. Without it society is at risk of raising a generation of young people who will look outside themselves to try and explain how they feel. Unable to self-appraise and not equipped with the life-skills essential for building resilient, balanced lives.