How smartphones and social media create a schizophrenic-like state

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Many people spend more time staring at screens than interacting with the real world. Hour-upon-hour, day-after-day, it is just eyes and ears that act as inputs and mouths and fingers that act as outputs.

In the words of the author Matthew Walker, we are a population whose “minds are elsewhere than our bodies” (Matthew Walker, The World Beyond Your Head).

In this video, the Academy of Ideas will explore how excessive use of screen-based technologies, be it televisions, computers, smartphones, or social media, disconnects us from our bodies and pushes us toward a schizophrenic-like manner of experiencing the world.

“The distinction between mind and body is an artificial dichotomy. . .The continuity of nature knows nothing of those antithetical distinctions the human intellect is forced to set up as aids to understanding.”

Carl Jung, Psychological Types

In optimal health, we are firmly rooted in our body, and body and mind are experienced as unitary phenomena, not separate entities.

However, the connection between the body and the mind can become disrupted, and when it does, we say that one is disembodied.

In a state of disembodiment, we do not feel that we are a body but that we possess a body.

Instead of being firmly rooted in our body, we feel alienated from it, and we tend to view the body not as an integral part of our selfhood but as a thing, or collection of things, that we carry around with us.

Screen-based technologies have altered our society’s dominant mode of sensory perception in ways that promote disembodiment.

These technologies have placed us on a trajectory where sight reigns supreme over all other senses.

We have become, in other words, an ocular-centric society, and as Giovanni Stanghellini and Louis Sass explain in their paper The Bracketing of Presence:

“In [an] ocularcentric [or sight-centered] society, not only does the individual become a passive receptor of images coming from the media; relationships between people also come increasingly to be mediated, even produced, by images.”

“The other becomes an image for me – and I an image for the other. In such a society, the more embodied, participatory, and “immersed” kinds of visual experience are replaced by passive forms of “seeing”: a disembodied witnessing of mere images and representations.

Giovanni Stanghellini and Louis Sass, The Bracketing of Presence

Social interactions are no longer primarily between men and women in the flesh-and-blood, as was the case for almost all of human history.

Now pictures, videos, strings of text, and emojis, such are the disembodied forms of representation that define many of our relationships.


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