Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Age of Immaturity

Its been said that a person spends the first two years of his life learning that he is the center of the universe and the rest of it learning that he is not. Many people today seem to be stuck at levels of maturity far less than their years would suggest. Why is this and what's it got to do with Technology?

Emotional Immaturity
By immaturity, I mean primarily Emotional Immaturity. So what exactly is that? Well, Emotional Maturity (EM) is the ability to control ones emotions and reactions. It is also the ability to cope with life and accept it as it really is not as you want it to be. Someone who is mature can accept responsibility for their actions and their situation. They look inwardly for ways to affect positive change, adapting to the world rather than expecting the world to adapt to them. Because of these positive behaviors they contribute to the well being of what ever community they are a part of.

In contrast someone who lacks EM will:
  • Try to control every situation and person around them.
  • Live in an idealized past, future or fantasy.
  • Dwell on negative emotions instead of moving on.
  • Talk on and on about their problems instead of finding solutions.
  • Throw a temper tantrum when ever they are faced with a situation that doesn't fit their ideal.
  • Blame other people and situations instead of accepting responsibility for their life.
  • Create lots of drama for themselves and their loved ones.
As a result of these attitudes and behaviors living with a person who lacks EM will be very difficult.

Technology's Role
Although, the roots of such behavior are varied and on the surface technology may seem to have little to do with it, the immature attitudes and behaviors described above are at least exacerbated by the influence of today's miraculous electronic world.

Today we have the means to supply instant gratification in so many ways. From the microwave oven to instant messaging we can often times get what we want when we want it with out much effort. Though some of this getting everything we want immediately is due to non technological factors like easy credit and the spoils of living in a wealthy society that lives off the cheap labor of the developing world, much of it is directly or indirectly due to technology.

Technology makes getting things done faster and this reduces our patience. We now find waiting for anything to be intolerable. Today sending a letter through the mail is called Snail Mail and the youngest generation even finds that email is too slow, They prefer to use text messaging. Products can be ordered on line and delivered to your door step overnight. Movies can be downloaded online, no more driving to the theater or Video rental. Even our food comes ready to eat or can be heated up in less than 2 minutes.

Video games and virtual reality allow people to enter a world where its all about them. They can do what ever they want and everything in the game is geared toward their enjoyment. We can talk to anyone on line in a social media app and we can ignore them, be rude or otherwise act in ways that would have been very awkward to say the least without these technologies. We don't even have to deal with boredom anymore because we always have a device nearby to entertain or otherwise occupy our minds.

Effect on children
Children who grow up with machines that cater to their every whim and live in an environment where they are the center of attention become conditioned to be self centered. Additionally, children need inter action with other people of all ages to learn how to be kind, show respect and compromise. They are not going to learn such things simply from watching a cartoon singalong or chatting with peers on social networks.

Discipline is also becoming more difficult. When most kids rooms are stocked with video games, cable TV and smart phones, sending little Johnny to his room is not much of a punishment. Likewise with out the timeout from electronic media how does a child have the time to meditate on any discipline he's been given. Any strong council from his elders will be quickly forgot as soon as he logs on to his XBox or starts surfing Youtube.

To be sure, I love the convenience of our machines. I personally am an avid user of the microwave and I really enjoy being able to order stuff online or download a movie. There is, however, a price to pay. Qualities such as patience, self control and kindness are being eroded by the instant gratification and lack of direct connection to people that technology affords.