Today, we have a blog post from our Osteopath and director David Propert who is sharing some useful insight from his recent experience in the clinic. Important life lessons for all of us.
‘Last week I found myself waiting for a patient to turn up for a first consultation. He had spent time face to face with our receptionist only a few days before, trying to sort out a suitable appointment slot, and now here we were and he hadn’t shown up. This was irritating but, luckily, there was someone on the waiting list who was local and could step into the slot.
When we finally managed to contact the no-show patient he explained that because he hadn’t received an electronic reminder (we normally email or text these in advance as a courtesy), he had forgotten about the appointment.
Whatever happened to self-reliance?
Today a colleague described how she had had a similar experience recently with a patient who hadn’t turned up because he “hadn’t updated his WhatsApp” so didn’t receive the reminder she had sent him via that medium.
These are just two examples of a developing trend that seems to be affecting ourselves and our patient population: Technological Dependency. This is an expression coined, originally, to describe a developing country’s dependency on outside help. Now it can be applied to the increasing rise of anxiety conditions related to a person’s separation from technology and the apparent inability for some individuals to function properly without the use of technology. There is now a specific dictionary term for this: Nomophobia (defined as ‘a state of stress caused by having no access to or being unable to use one’s mobile phone’). This is quite likely to appear in the next edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM as a distinct diagnostic entity and there are already metrics for scoring a person’s mobile phone dependence.
Many authors have written about this phenomenon (see the excellent contributions by Calmer Clinics’ Jennifer Day, as well as Dr. Elias Aboujoade’s book: ‘Virtually You: The Dangers of the E-Personality’, articles in ‘Psychology Today’, and the excellent ‘The Brain That Changes Itself’ by Dr Norman Doidge, not to mention ‘Brave New World’-type prophetic novels forecasting the rise of the machines). They agree that it is akin to an addiction and needs to be addressed as a health concern because it affects mood and behaviour in an ultimately destructive way leading to impatience, impulsiveness, forgetfulness, and narcissism.
Another reminder of our abrogation of responsibility to technology is the ‘sat-nav effect’ whereby an individual drives the wrong way or into an inappropriate, or dangerous situation against their better judgment because the machine is telling them to. We can begin to appreciate the real problem: our own autonomous human judgment is being trumped by technology. Confidence in human intelligence then begins to wane and the tool designed to assist us becomes the substitute brain. The idea that it frees our minds to work on more serious problems is undermined by the fact that nature really does work on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis. Our mind becomes the 3rd -World equivalent relying on 1st-World technology.
And what about issues of self-worth and how we value and respect one another? All too often it is being measured by numbers of ‘followers’ and ‘likes’. In this pseudo-reality, our true sense of self is lost to the cyber universe. Of course, technology can provide huge benefits to individuals as well as to society. Perhaps what we are witnessing is just an adaptation period as we get used to incredible technological advances beyond our immediate capabilities for putting them to good use. Our current technological revolution has been likened to the industrial revolution of the late 18th century, with the new public health problems that were produced as a result of progress.
The Turing test is a benchmark for whether or not a machine can mimic human intelligence to such a degree that it becomes indiscernible from ‘real’ human intelligence. This has provided motivation to produce ever more sophisticated computers but we forget that the linear scale of this measure of machine intelligence has two ends. What if instead of machines becoming cleverer, human beings are becoming dumber? Smartphone – stupid person. How long before ‘AI’ becomes the gold standard and becomes simply ‘I’?
So, if you notice feeling unsettled or anxious when separated from your device or the internet, using it as a substitute for or finding it is getting in the way of social interaction. If you catch yourself switching it on by habit and at inappropriate moments, relying on it to remember, and feeling lost without it:
-Just switch it off! Try spending a whole day without it. Progress to a weekend.
-Consider practices such as mindfulness/ meditation, for learning to be in the moment and developing the discipline of just ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’.
-Never take your phone to bed or to the bathroom!
-Exercise without technology for a change. How ironic that we have to labour in the gym or metaphorical (and literal) treadmill to replace the exercise we are no longer taking naturally as a result of labour-saving devices!
We, at Calmer Clinics, welcome you to discuss these and other issues with our excellent team of health professionals. For more information, check our website for the full list of therapies offered.