Separation Anxiety

It’s not just a childhood disorder, our relationships with and through the Technojungle can produce separation anxiety.

I was startled when I thought I heard and felt my phone ringing and vibrating, only to discover I didn’t even have my phone with me. Suddenly, I felt naked, separated from everything I had become used to and comfortable with. I felt a chill of anxiety fall over me—“What will I miss?” It was the first time I had left home without my phone and it was a learning experience.

When we are away from that which we are used to having near to us; from that which we are attached to; we can become anxious. Young children who are away from their parents can suffer from severe anxiety and even distress. This is known as separation anxiety disorder. In the severe form, it becomes a disorder, however, children usually go through some mild form as a natural development in growing up. A form of separation anxiety has become recognized in adults. It would seem to be a carryover from the childhood form of separation anxiety that the child never fully outgrew. 

Do we all have some form of separation anxiety lurking within us, or at least, the propensity toward developing some form of separation anxiety? Have you ever lost a loved one? How about a pet? These are important losses that affect us deeply and leave us with hole in our emotions and a longing to be near again to the loved one. A common phrase often heard is, “I miss…” If we miss someone, or some place, or even some thing, we can deem this to be a form of separation anxiety?

For years I have watched as certain stable and secure aspects of our lives and society have eroded away. One example that immediately comes to mind is job security. Our jobs and careers are not as stable as they once were back in the sixties and seventies. Another, in many places, is affordable housing. This is a huge concern where I live. I believe that for those of us who have lived through many decades, there is a certain loss of how things were and it could be a form of separation anxiety. Do you miss how things were, perhaps before the Technojungle made life so much busier?

Could it be that we all have some form of separation anxiety lurking within us, or at least, the propensity toward developing some form of separation anxiety?

What about the younger generations? A young child is protected by their parents, who provide safety and security. All children, as they grow, must venture out of the safe sphere provided by their parents and learn to cope in the world on their own. They will suffer some mild to moderate forms of separation anxiety. I have believed for a long time now that, if the society a person grows into lacks some aspects of safety and security, many forms of anxiety can exist. 

As a child grows out of the safety and security of their parents, and the innocence and even ignorance of what the world is really like, they can experience more severe forms of separation anxiety that they may not be able to overcome. The anxiety may become hidden over the years and a person can become accustomed to the anxiety, even though it is there and detrimental to a healthy life.

It is my contention that, when we have a society where the majority of citizens are experiencing forms of damaging separation anxiety, that we can have a very destabilized and insecure society as a whole.

I realize that I have taken a departure from the main focus of this book’s discussions, however, I feel this is important. The unstable and insecure aspects of life in our post-modern, perhaps post post-modern, society has been a concern of mine for many years and I have wanted to give my concern some serious explanation. With this better understanding of separation anxiety, we can now turn toward looking at how separation anxiety relates to our lives in the Technojungle. This is most certainly only the beginning of such a discussion. 

From what we have looked at on safari and from our own experiences in the Technojungle, I don’t think anyone would argue that the Technojungle is somewhat on the wild side. It is exciting in many ways and draws us in to interact with it, various corporations and other humans. 

In what ways do you see the online world of the Technojungle as unstable and insecure? Do our devices hold exciting promises of assisting us to be in control of our world? If we are truly honest, can we really say that life in the Technojungle is as healthy for us as we might think it is? Do we get our deepest needs of stability, security and safety satisfied by the Technojungle? Can we venture to say, quite the opposite? Would we be more accurate to say that the Technojungle disrupts our lives?

If stability, security and safety are such deep human needs that were once provided for by our parents, where do we find them and satisfy these needs in our lives and world today? Can we state that the Technojungle contributes to, and even creates separation anxiety?

Have you, as happened to me and described at the beginning here, ever left your cell phone at home? How did it make you feel? You probably felt some separation anxiety and, if your cell phone was a smartphone that you relied on for many Technojungle tasks in your day to day activities, you probably felt some form of separation anxiety. What about when smartphones get really smart, will they have feelings?

I have mentioned before that I carry my phone from room to room in my house so I won’t have to run up the stairs if I need it. I don’t like the possibly of missing someone, just in case my phone should ring, or I needed to check something on my device. This actually sounds crazy and is certainly dehumanizing. What is the likelihood that a missed phone call would need me to take immediate action? Why not just let it go to voicemail and not let it have to run to find my phone, or interrupt what I am doing at the time of the call?

People who are away from their phone often tell of feeling vibrations in their pocket, or becoming anxious, when they hear a sound around them that is similar to a sound one of their devices makes. There is actually now a term used for this called phantom ring. I think this sort of experience can happen even when we have our phone in our possession. I often hear a certain noise and ask myself, “Is that my phone?” Have you ever felt phantom ring? What is your reaction when you hear a sound similar to one your device makes?

I find I am often startled by my phone ringing. I have my phone ring set to a klaxon horn, like an old car, so I know when it is my phone ringing. One day I was in an antique shop and suddenly heard the klaxon horn. I grabbed my phone out of my pocket. It was not ringing. I had a strange feeling. Because I was surrounded by old stuff, I looked for a horn. Then I realized that the fellow next to me had his phone ring also set to klaxon.

Many people will experience forms of separation anxiety when away from various Technojungle activities, such as E-mail or texting, or various social media activities. Have you ever felt anxiety when you can’t do a particular activity online, such as check your social media? The technological separation anxieties we experience can be hidden, or even ignored, but the separation and disconnectedness of humans created by the Technojungle is extremely serious. I have discussed this more than once. While a Friend on social media may be more of a stranger, the replacing of true and real human interactions in person is destructive and dehumanizing. 

Don’t most humans long to be near another human? It creates the best circumstance for communicating. People when they meet often shake hands. What happens when people shake hands? It is done through human to human touch and creates a link and bond. I don’t need to cover the effectiveness of person to person, face-to-face, communications. I have discussed this at length already. Do you often turn to using the Technojungle to provide your communication medium when it is actually possible to, with a little effort, communicate with someone in person? I am as guilty as the next person for this. Isn’t it simply too easy to replace our human contact?

When my wife is talking in person with someone, she sometimes takes her hand and touches the other person when she is making a point. This seems to be an amazing emphasis on human communicating. The Technojungle can’t provide anything close to that. I might be bold enough to say that all Technojungle communication is synthetic. In fact, I have already talked about the artificial aspects of the Technojungle. The father of the modern computer, Alan Turing, called a true computer an imitation of the human mind.

Many people will experience forms of separation anxiety when away from various Technojungle activities, such as E-mail or texting, or various social media activities.

One more thought. In utilizing the Technojungle to substitute or replace our human knowledge, skills and abilities, perhaps even losing them altogether, can we say that we are creating some other forms of separation anxiety? If our computer corrects our spelling for us, could we somewhere deep inside be kicking ourselves that we can no longer spell well? What about other skills and abilities that we allow the Technojungle to replace? Can you think of anything you are be missing that you have allowed technology to take over from you?

How many types of separation anxiety in the Technojungle can you think of? I can think of at least three. One type is the anxiety we feel when separated from our devices and the Technojungle. Another is the separation anxiety we feel when separated from each other as we allow the Technojungle to replace our human to human communications. The third relates to the loss of our own skills and abilities. Can you think of any other forms of Technojungle related separation anxiety? Are there aspects of using technology that might overshadow these anxieties, perhaps masking the anxiety in some way? 

What are the characteristics of separation anxiety that you have noticed? Have you seen, or experienced, either recognized, or unrecognized, feelings of instability, insecurity, unsafeness, loss of skills and abilities, and human disconnectedness? Can we also be suffering from a loss of knowing who we are as human beings? This is something that is truly of great importance as we redeem and reclaim that which we may have lost, retain and maintain what we have today, and to protect our humanness and humanity for our future as we learn about being better human beings and living in a world of technology—the Technojungle.

When we are separated from that which we are attached to, from what we are used to doing, and from each other, we experience anxiety. Part of what we must ask ourselves often regarding technology and the Technojugle in our lives and our society is “What are we losing and what are we leaving behind.” What is it about our humanness that is disappearing—eroding away?


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