Too much technology makes you sad, the International Labor Organization (ILO) announced this month.
I wasn’t surprised at the news. Psychologists have been saying it for years, and besides, anybody with any common sense could tell you that staring into a computer screen all day isn’t healthy, in the same way your mother told you to turn off the TV for cryin’ out loud and go outside and play.
But what got me intrigued, the more I thought about it, was why? What human genome alarms ring when one points and clicks once too often? What is it that, deep inside us, rebels against too much connectivity? The only answer I could come up with is this: evolution.
The Evolution of Inactivity
In particular, the ILO study found that technologically advanced countries have higher incidences of clinical depression and other mental disorders. In Finland, where cell phones and Internet connections are as common as fog and snow, all sorts of morose people are wandering its cold, bleak streets. The Finns are having trouble sleeping and are even suffering physical pain, the ILO said. Americans are affected too, even those from sunny Florida and California.
An evolutionist would have an easy time dissecting the problem. From a physical standpoint, it’s simple: humans weren’t meant to sit in the same position for extended periods. We were meant to move about in search of food, not to sit virtually motionless in one place in a search for love, dirty pictures and stock prices. Otherwise, we’d have all evolved rear ends the size of patio furniture.
Humans were meant to see a variety of living things — trees, plants, animals, other humans — not a static, dead screen. The eye was meant to wander and to stop when it found something particularly pleasing or curious. Instead, more often than not, the eye wanders right to the optician for a stronger spectacles prescription.
Nature is trying to tell us something: get away from the computer screen, for cryin’ out loud, and go outside and play.
Ancestors Were Part-Timers
The 24/7 world affects us negatively in an emotional sense as well, because also it sticks us at an evolutionary fork in the road. No longer tethered to the office by wires, we are subject for duty any time, night or day. And, as anyone who has ever been “on call” can tell you, being available for work is almost as bad as actually being at work.
Studies have shown our distant ancestors worked only about 20 hours a week, hunting, gathering and doing whatever else they had to do in order to survive. The rest of the time, they pursued cave companions, drank grog or just hung around and stared into the fire, thinking the thoughts that allowed us to get to where we are now.
Humans need to get away from work. Our psychology requires it. Freud, when asked about the meaning of life, spoke of the holy triumvirate of love, work and play. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the wisdom of Sigmund Freud over Bill Gates any day.
Human Destiny at Stake
If this theory of evolution is correct, it would necessarily follow that those who are not affected adversely by prolonged exposure to 24/7 responsibilities are the most evolved of all. To be specific, these people have evolved beyond the need for physical movement, aesthetic diversity, meaningful interaction and eye-wear insecurities.
That’s right, the vanguard of a new species is the geek. As technology becomes ever more pervasive and radically alters the course of our destiny, the historically-maligned geek represents the new form we are taking.
So if you don’t want our species heading down the road to tech-induced depression, if you don’t want us to become anything less than the hale and hearty species we’d like to believe we were meant to be, then do your part to keep human evolution on the right track.
For cryin’ out loud, turn off the computer and cell phone and go outside and play.