Technology separates us from each other

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I am writing to you today in regards to the letter in the April 26 edition of the Winters Express entitled “My Proposal.”  In this letter, Winters High School senior Emily Blackwell proposed the U.S. adopt the gun laws and regulations instituted in Australia.

I applaud Miss Blackwell’s desire to create change in our nation.  Gun violence is an increasing issue in our country and I agree that the problem needs to be addressed. When these incidents occur, our natural human desire is to point the finger at the obvious: the gun. With this comes a slew of debate on gun laws, gun control, and types of guns individuals should or should not be allowed to own. Although I agree with Miss Blackwell that these things are important and do need to be addressed, I propose that we look at the problem on a deeper, less obvious level.

I believe that there two main contributing factors in these incidents. First is our nation’s approach to mental health. A recent study shows that 13 percent of our population is currently on antidepressants. Let’s face it, life sometimes presents some difficult challenges and we need a little help.

It is fairly easy to get a prescription to ease the symptoms but not so easy to get actual help for the source of the problem. Most insurances cover a maximum of 10 mental health visits a year. This may be enough to help someone through a temporary setback — but it is not enough to help anyone with real issues such as loss or depression. Therapy can be very expensive and many families cannot afford the out of pocket costs.  So, the ailing individual is given a pill for the symptoms but the problem remains. All this, however, brings up the debate on healthcare and healthcare reform. Great — another debate! When will it end?

The second issue, and one that I believe is the biggest issue, is our elimination of humanity. We live in the age of technology. It seems that every day, some new technology is introduced and with it the promise of hands-free, low stress, and improved lives… and less human contact.

Technology has invaded every area of our lives. Thanks to things like the web, self-checkout, ATMs, automated voice services, television and online shopping, it is actually possible to spend days with no real human contact — and what does this create? A disconnected and isolated society. A society where real connection becomes a foreign concept and the world around you is just a series of nameless faces.

Almost daily, we read of bullying, shootings and other crimes against humanity. As we become a more enlightened society, one would think these things would decrease and eventually cease altogether, and yet, they are on the rise. Why? Could it possibly be that it is because we are creating a society where face to face contact is no longer necessary?

Technology is a wonderful thing. In fact, I am using it right now to send this very letter. Yet it could never replace the value of having an actual conversation with anyone reading it.

Rather than being a society that uses technology in moderation, we have become a society that indulges in it. Perhaps rather than focusing all of our attention on gun laws and reform we should also focus some of our attention on our actions.

Perhaps it is time for our society to take a step back and get to know our grocers, our bankers and our hardware store clerks.  Maybe we should go back to family dinners, heart to heart conversations, and interacting with the world around us and not the screen in front of us. Perhaps if we bring humanity back, we will remember we are all connected and that we are all in this thing called life together. Maybe, just maybe, by bringing our focus back to the important things in life, we can heal things like fear, sadness, anger, depression and loneliness.

I invite anyone reading this letter to take a step towards potentially healing this issue by calling someone rather than texting or emailing. I’m sure that person on your mind would love to hear the sound of your voice. Maybe while at the store, skip self-checkout and talk to the clerk. Your kind words could change their entire day. Tonight at dinner, gather the family together and check in face to face — and not on Facebook.

Just a thought.

TONI NELL

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