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The Jewish Report Editorial

Living in the age of distraction.

  • Vanessa
Last week Monday, August 31, over a billion people logged onto Facebook in one day - about one seventh of the world’s population. The social media site says it has nearly 1,5 billion users who log on at least once a month. While this is amazing news for its founder Mark Zuckerberg, what does it mean for the rest of us who live in a world of constant tweeting, Instagramming, whatsapping, and even sexting?
by VANESSA VALKIN | Sep 09, 2015

The sight of couples dining in restaurants in rapt conversation with their mobile devices, or family dinners marked by iPad use or intermittent texting, is commonplace. To pass judgement would be myopic because these are not necessarily unhappy couples or dysfunctional families.

Indeed mobile phones and texting allow us to be more efficient than ever. As parents we can check in with our children and schedule their activities while ordering groceries online, getting the ingredients together for supper or holding a business meeting. 

Despite the advantages, what has gadgetry and the ubiquitous worldwide web taken away from our interpersonal spaces? In a recent article in Psychotherapy Networker by Ron Taffel, chairman of the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy in New York, he noted that one third of mothers in the US had mobile device by 2012. They utilised them on average 6,1 hours a day and reported that their devices were always within arm’s reach.

For psychologists like Taffel, the concern is the interrupted attention that this brings. Even when parents want to give undivided time to their children, our modern, technology-infused, multi-tasking lives, get in the way and our offspring do not get the unbroken intensity and eye contact that they deserve.

Is this a contributing factor to the increasing levels of anxiety and depression evident in teens today who are getting this “agitated, fragmented, distracted attention” from their parents? Taffel, among others, say it is.

“If love is, as has been suggested, focused interest, how can chronic distraction translate into secure attachment?” Taffel asks.

Secure attachment - forming strong attachments to parents but being able to leave them, knowing they will return later - is required during childhood to form the basis for secure relationships and independence as adults.

 

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And as adults, technology has revolutionised our interpersonal space. It has opened up the possibility of friendships or romantic partners in different social circles or even countries. It is now possible to build emotional bonds through constant texting and seeing one another on Skype without actually living in close proximity. 

Although there are obvious advantages to this, it has altered the dimensions of our personal engagement. We live for the highs of the beep in response, we can sink when it has not been read or responded to, and in these interactions, we have lost the more traditional rules of engagement which involve touch, smile and eye contact. 

Also, it is strange that through sites like Facebook, though we are not in regular touch with distant friends or acquaintances and may never be, we are party to the sometimes intimate moments of their lives.

Technology has also opened up a whole new world of “cyber infidelity”, a topic therapists are writing widely on. Woe for the amount of relationships that have ended over text messages surreptitiously discovered by suspicious partners.

And one can imagine the emotional havoc wreaked when Ashley Madison, the site for cheating spouses, was recently hacked and the more than 30 million names were released into the public domain. 

 

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The late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, once said that his customers didn’t know what they wanted until it was shown to them. He helped created a desire and now an absolute reliance on tablet computers and smartphones. Yes, this creator of modern computing was most brilliant. 

Perhaps, however, the creator of Shabbat was even more so, giving us this amazing weekly opportunity to disengage from all our devices and to stop, take stock and really relate to important people in our lives. It is indeed a wonder more of us don’t take advantage of this “freebie”.

Wishing all our readers, leaders and advertisers a wonderful, meaningful and connected Yomtov period. We will resume publishing the paper on October 16. Please visit the website on www.sajr.co.za for news in the interim.

       
                                                                                                                                   – Vanessa Valkin

2 Comments

  1. 2 sebastian 10 Sep
    this is so true we trust the things in our hand more and more and slowly drifting away from the truth .The choice is me. Shabbat is indeed the light in all this chaos and the clean mirror .   
  2. 1 Mark 21 Oct
    To an astounding degree enlightening post grateful concerning offer this to us i exceedingly appreciate you for this information


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