How did Apple convince us that we needed a phone costing several hundred pounds? Well not everyone can have a top of the range car, but many people (in all economic brackets) can have a top of the range phone, especially on contract.
They can be satisfying and delightful to use. Like all electronic media, when they don’t work they can be maddening. Iphone rage?! When they work well, they give one a sense power, of importance and of being in control (just like an expensive car). What a contrast to so much in our lives which is messy and bewildering!
One may wonder at the constant checking and playing with Iphones that can be observed in public places. To what extent is this a natural keeping in touch, and to what extent is it neurotic. The answer, as so often, lies with questions like “can I do without it?” ”Am I addicted to this?”
To the extent that these activities are neurotic, is there essentially anything new in this neurosis? After all the neurotic activity of pointless thinking, of worrying about everything under the sun is endemic. I suspect it is far more prevalent in the post modern world, where so many of the values and institutions which traditionally gave a sense of identity and security have been eroded. So this neural hyperactivity has been a feature of psychological life now for many decades now. Neurotic activity always goes on – thinking, wondering, worrying. Only now it is more visible. Iphone as mirror of busy mind!
It is worth noting that technology is always an externalisation of some human function. The industrial revolution was largely powered by steam, which gave the “muscle power” to turn ideas into reality. Information technology externalises neural activity.
Once a particular function is externalised via a technology, then humans (or at least some humans) are freed of that function. Since the industrial revolution we have had machines to perform the work of muscles. We now have machines to perform (some) functions of the nervous system. We can expect to see information technology increasingly regulating and/or controlling every aspect of out lives.
People of all ages and genders can be observed “playing with” their phones. Checking for or sending texts and emails, looking at photos, listening to music or going on line. These devices really are palm computers. Hence the price!
And what’s the word that hovers behind all this activity? “Connectivity.” The need to be connected with each other, with our music with our photos and with information in general.
We all have, have always had, the desire to belong. In the past this need was met in village, local community, church and so on. How is it met in the 21st century, where so many are on the move (mobile me) and no longer belong to traditional communities? Thus we have the technology for the global village. But it’s interesting how the technology connects while at the same time emphasizing isolation. People have so many friends on Facebook. Why haven’t I? The need for belonging and relationship has never been greater.
We could also see “connectivity” through the lens of what are classically thought of as feminine values. To connect, to share, to relate.
Iphone technology has an especially feminine slant. Observe the user with the delicate touch on the screen. The smart phone seems more suited to women’s fingers, than men’s!
So is the Iphone an icon of the emergence of feminine values in the modern world? Or should we see it as a seductive, but false, solution to the problems of isolation and loneliness?
I leave you with a statistic from the website Statistic Brain:
Percentage of marriages in the last year where the couple met on a dating site: 17%
Short pieces from Julian on all aspects of healing, psychology and spirituality