Is Technology Making Us Happy?

In studying the Official Suicide Statistics Charts available via the internet, several things become apparent about the condition of our world. Though the official rate of suicides has remained essentially consistent from 1950 – 2004, the social groups reported guilty of this ultimate self-offense have shifted radically over the course of the past 6 years. The rate of suicides from 15-25 years of age has more than tripled between the years 1950 and 1993 while those of most social groups remained only slightly modular. Some have even decreased. White men currently make up approximately 80% of all successful suicides in the USA, over 28% of all gay males repeatedly attempt suicide while nearly 30% of all young lesbians attempt suicide even more frequently than gay males. Strangely enough, the numbers are even higher for Christian youth, as are the numbers involving Christian youth who self-injure, and the number of Christian marriages that end in divorce far greater than those in “secular” relations.

Prior to 1950, the suicide rates among all American social groups were decidedly much lower than the years to follow. Many things could contribute to these numbers: the increased availability of firearms, alcohol and/or drug abuse prevelence, economic stress, social pressures and/or persecutions, televised violence, etc. Even the statisticians are at a loss as to the absolute cause of the increases and fluctuations. Vladimir Ilich Lenin made a very powerful statement:

“Corrupt the young, get them away from religion. Get them interested in sex. Make them superficial, and destroy their ruggedness. Get control of all means of publicity, and thereby get the peoples’ mind off their government by focusing their attention on athletics, sexy books and plays, and other trivialities. Divide the people into hostile groups by constantly harping on
controversial matters of no importance.”

How readily we have fallen into his projected means of governing a people. All of the things he listed we see in the news every day across the nation, with endless people using their chosen conflicts and perceived social denials and persecutions to justify further violence and inhumane attrocities. How often do we see extreme anger, excitement, joy and enthusiasm at sporting events? How seldom do we see the same fervor in the Christian worship of God. I challenge you to consider this: the past 54 years of human history has seen a majority of the most miraculous achievements in human ingenuity, has seen the degree of mass communications take quantum leaps from year to year, has been priviledged to enjoy a level of technology, comfort and convenience never before imagineable…yet, the suicide rates among us have not deviated but by a scant few persons per 100,000 persons throughout that same era.

Today we see more advertisements for neural inhibitors, psychotropics and anti-depressants on televison, radio and internet than we do ads for booze and sex! If we take the current statistics, however, we do note a change. Though the number of successful suicides among Americans has changed little in the past 54 years, the per-capita population has increased astronomically. Thus, we see the percentage of suicidal Americans decreasing, not increasing. This statement is of coursed based on the statistics available and lean heavily upon their accuracy.

Is technology making us happy? How can we assess the American social condition? What defines happy? Let me try to explain from what I consider to be the begining, my surmisal of the facts.

The ratio of suicides has dropped dramatically of the past 54 years. The implementation of extreme comfort technology has increased at a rapid pace since the invention of the transistor in 1947. Convenience technology was introduced to Americans, ranging from efficient refrigerators, freezer boxes that kept themselves cold, telephones, radios, televisions, microwave ovens, VCR’s, home video game consoles and utimately computers and the internet. Americans went from belief in a radio broadcast to doubting a live satellite video feed in a matter of 35 years. To put that into perspective, it took until the year 600 BC before someone invented soap! It took humans over 4000 years to harness electricity for the first time. The Gutenberg Press, invented in 1440, was man’s first method of mass reproduction
of the printed word aside from manually reprinting. So 35 years in the course of invention is, based on past history, horifically infinitessimal.

All these things taken into consideration, the following statements are true. We live in the most comfortable, convenient, easily managed and maintained state of being in history. We have immediate access to the sum of human knowledge via the internet. We have public education, ultra-fast transportation methods and nearly limitless person-to-person communications abilities. Every physical boundary has been eliminated by telephones, cell phones, the internet, fax machines and satellite television.

Now for the converse. Because of what technology enables people to do with their time, suddenly you see that demands upon the individual has radically increased. You can take care of all the menial tasks in life with historical efficiency, so you have freed up that time for the sake of getting more work done, burning yourself out on inconsequential function or for the addition of even more side-work. Or, you find yourself so exghausted by the contemporary world’s demands on your mind and body, as a result of the advent of technological efficency that you need additional rest in your “down-times” to recooperate.

Regardless, it seems you have less and less time to use in involving yourself with family, friends, or even God. You are too busy running the kids to ball or hockey practice, too busy prapring for tomorrow’s business meeting, too busy watching TV, catching up on the news, too busy recovering from that taxing day, too busy…too busy…too busy!

“I am busy!” says God’s church! Seems to be that the testimony of the church today has been reduced to that single word…”Busy!”

Looking at this picture, we can assert that people are a lot more stressed today than they were in 1950. They are a lot “busier”, and seldom have time for the three things that should truly matter above all others. In spite of all the convenience and comfort technology has brought to Americans for the sake of freeing up time, it still seems most Americans have scarce free time
yet to spare. Instead, Americans have more work, more function and more demands than ever.

These elements seem contrary to the suicide statistics. Why aren’t more people throwing themselves into the furnace of social stress and fear? Perhaps because technology has afforded us a gift in the midst of its demands. It’s not entertainment…catching the new episode of your favorite show, getting that new game to actually install on your computer then spending endless hours playing it seems more of a greater burden than a blessing. No, technology has compensated for itself in the introduction of those nasty little pills mentioned earlier. Rather than deal with the stress, we can circumvent our natural physical and neurological reaction to stress altogether by taking the wonder drug of the day! Who cares what they name it or what side effects it has, just so long as it seems to adequately supress the part of the person that is adversely responding to the world’s demands. Consequently it happens to be the same part of a person that defines how they respond to love and joy. Only by supressing half of the person’s
intended personality can these drugs hope to eliminate the confusion at the root of today’s stress.

Why all of the suicides? No matter how much we attempt to deceive ourselves either by drugs or lies, we all come to apoint where the truth demands attention. Those nasty little pills steal something from us. They steal our sense of self-sufficiency. And in today’s America, self-sufficiciency literally defines the viability of the person. But when those pills control your thought processes to begin with, you find yourself convinced that it’s simply not worth the effort to try
to figure it all out. It’s the point where inconvenience meets the wall of self sufficiency that determines for us whether life is yet worth living. So I ask one more time. Is technology making us happy? Or, can we postulate that technology has gotten so good that it has managed to make us oblivious to its harmful demands on us? Now we find ourselves in a state of apathy,
exghaustion and lack of hope. No time for kids, friends, family, church or God.

But what does it matter? It seems as though we are happy.

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