The danger of digital withdrawal


“Why have wired headphones made a comeback? I literally just got my AirPods.” So a Reddit user recently asked on a discussion page under the heading “No Stupid Questions“.

This is indeed not a stupid question. Cordless (“wireless”) headphones are out. Chord- (“wired”) headphones are in. So many social and technology pages announce these days. It’s not just those little Apple earphones that are in fashion. The bigger the headphones, the better!

There are a few reasons for this, such as that headphones with cords offer better sound quality and that they do not require batteries. However, the popularity of wireless headphones is not simply for practical reasons. It’s simple”cooler” to say it like it is.

This “cool” factor is mainly underpinned by two ideas… And one does not have to think about it for long to see that these two ideas cannot be reconciled with each other.

The first is that cords are “old-fashioned” or “retro” and that especially among young people there is a yearning for the “good old days”. These are the good old days that they didn’t experience themselves, but that they get an idea of ​​when they watch old movies and listen to the music of years past. This impression involves that the good old days were better and nicer than the present and that there was significantly less tension between people then.

The second is that the cord accomplishes social withdrawal. A cord that goes all the way from your ears to your hand or trouser pocket creates distance between you and the person sitting across from you in the coffee shop or on the bus. A white cable like Apple’s is even better, because it is more clearly visible. The cable emphasizes the fact that you are “in another place” and thus makes your inaccessibility and isolation clear. In today’s world, inaccessibility is often confused with independence. It says at the same time “I am cool” and “don’t talk to me…” or maybe even: “don’t talk to me because I am cool“.

It should not surprise anyone that social withdrawal leads to a loss of social sensitivity. While we read how people like more and more to isolate themselves from the world and escape to a digital world, we hear more and more about dark things like depression and narcissism. Although the world today is better off in material terms than at any previous time in history, there are higher levels of mistrust between people than has ever been established before.

I recently listened to a group of primary school children visiting when they started counting how many “YouTubers” there are in their respective schools – with the clear assumption that the school with the most YouTubers is the best. We also see this phenomenon in new polls among children who increasingly say they are social media influencers (“influencers”) want to become when they grow up.

Influencing people through social media is not inherently good or bad. The question is, of course, what kind of influence it is and for what purpose.

However, the danger lights flash when people on the one hand are unable to make or keep friends, but at the same time make it their life’s goal to change the very society in which they themselves play no role through social media. These lights flash even brighter when people find out that you can crack the “code” by using the algorithms to your advantage to get more “likes” and “shares” to get. This leads to the weirdest things being rewarded in the digital world these days, like high school kids who build a platform by posting videos of themselves pissing off old people, and social media “activists” who themselves do nothing but make loud political statements. to make.

These “activists” (on the left and right side of the spectrum) like to make statements like “enough is enough” and “today we draw a line in the sand”, to the great amusement of their audiences, while in the real world they never actually taking the action they talk about all the time.

We – and especially our children – must understand that there are indeed good reasons why we can think nostalgically about the “good old days”. The past had its problems – different problems than the ones we struggle with today. It is true that there was less tension and mistrust between people, especially in community contexts. This loss of connectedness is precisely the result of social withdrawal. It is obvious that further social withdrawal cannot be the answer to a problem that was precisely created by social withdrawal.

We cannot avoid the digital world. It would be to our detriment to do so. The digital world is part of our world and we must use it. However, we must never forget that the digital world is not the real world. Believing that a person’s worth (and dignity) can be measured based on the things he or she does and says on the Internet is the logical equivalent of believing that your neighbors marriage is healthy because they have nice photos post on Facebook.

It would be a big mistake to isolate our children from the digital world. To do so today is unthinkable anyway. On the other hand, we must ensure that our children do not withdraw into the digital world and become isolated from the real world in the process.