What does the “i” stand for in iPod, iPhone, iPad? Does anyone know? We’ve become the “i” generation, plugged in 24/7. Go to a museum and you see people walking through the galleries checking their iPhones instead of looking at the exhibits. Go into a Barns & Noble and watch the people who, while selecting CDs in the music section, are plugged into their iPods. I don’t know how many times I’ve almost run over a pedestrian who is staring at some tiny screen instead of being conscious of the traffic around him. Don’t even ask me about my opinion of the jerks who have to use these devises while driving. And it’s not just the “kids” who are immersed (here is another “i” word) in that other universe, it’s every generation! I recently took classes at college and, to my chagrin, had to deal with an 80 minute lecture that was broken up repeatedly by the professor checking her iPhone. For what reason? To get the latest score on her hockey playing son! In another class, there were numerous students who had their phones on silent mode but would then get up and leave the class to take the call. This other professor did not discourage their behavior feeling that they had family matters to check on. However, these people walking back and forth in front of me while he was giving his lecture made me want to scream.

Insensitive, isolationist, inconsiderate, interactive but in an alternate universe, does anyone ever connect with the real world anymore. Most people are more concerned with their “likes” on Facebook, the number of people viewing their Instagram pics, and responding in delayed time to Twitter words. It’s been proven that one can have relationships with humans where the only connection is in cyberspace but has anyone ever received a feel good emotion from hugging their iPad?

So why this rant today? I am trying to work through a very tough question in my life due to the deaths, last week of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain: Why do people contemplate and become suicidal? I have a very good friend, who when she gets winter SAD, cuts herself off from all human contact and thinks about doing it. OK, this has nothing to do with iPhones but like I wrote a few sentences ago, it’s isolationist. We human beings are meant to connect flesh on flesh, voice to ear, touch to touch, and see each other in real time. As humans, we are genetically programmed to react to our environment, either in fear or in delight. (And studies have shown that babies who do not experience human touch don’t thrive.) Electronic devices (even the smartphone’s latest attempt at virtual reality) can’t replicate that, they put up a wall between us.

Yes, I know that people commit suicide for many different reasons but I just can’t help wondering how much all of our “i” devices are contributing to the uptick in such deaths. When social media debuted no one would have thought that it could be the reason people would commit suicide. Today we know differently.

We’ll probably never know why Spade and Bourdain took their lives. They definitely were not isolated individuals. They both had family, friends and a support system. But what about the thousands who are just like everyone else in the plugged in generations who one day discover that the world of pixels is not enough. That the light on the screen can’t show them the way out of THEIR darkness and thus they decide that the only answer is to hit the off button on their life.

(if you think someone you know is going this route don’t stay silent. Talk to them, ask them if they are contemplating suicide. And give them this number: National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255, where they can talk to people who are trained to help)

 

 

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