“The accelerated rate of technological and social change will overwhelm people, leaving them disconnected and suffering from ‘shattering stress and disorientation’ – future shocked.”
So said Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock, in 1970 [what an awesome year that was too!]
I came across this term when I was doing some further reading about nature defecit disorder, a topic that I posted about a while back. Alvin could have been referring to our ‘now’ where things are changing so rapidly that we begin to feel disconnected and displaced – it’s almost as though the rules that we have grown up on are shifting sands, and with the shifting goes our sense of identity and security… nothing is really ‘solid’ anymore.
What’s prompted me again is another article that is linking increasing rates of depression in children and teens with their increasing disconnection from nature, driven by the rapid increase of electronic distractions, i.e. future shock.
Electronic games, Facebook-Tumblr-Twitter-I-can’t-live-withoutyousocialmedia, iPhones and iPads, tablets and widgets and all things a-sparkly and fast.
When I’m on the train heading into the city I’m often dismayed to see how many people are sitting or standing in the ‘iPhone-prone’ position, heads down, ears plugged, eyes glued, but not seeing each other nor the scenery as it pulses by. I’ve counted [sorry] on several occasions, and the average is about 80%. 80% of the passengers are connected with the ‘net but disconnected from where they are.
And maybe that’s ok, maybe it doesn’t matter and I’m just sounding like a grumpy 70s kid. But what if this emerging research is onto something? What if we really are starting to suffer from Future Shock but haven’t made the connection? My childhood was spent out in the street, the park, the bush. That doesn’t happen anymore, and we have kids being diagnosed with depression.. ?!
But there’s a good side to this story. Like the MD who wrote the above article, I believe there’s an easy cure for future shock. If our lives are changing so rapidly and unpredictably that we’re feeling displaced, there’s one part of our lives that has never changed and hopefully never will.
Nature. It’s still all around us, patiently waiting for us. And maybe the mounting evidence showing that we need nature and parks will further build the business case for keeping them in our cities.
So this weekend’s challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to head to your nearest local park for an hour [easy peasy], and leave your phone at home [oh so cold-sweatingly difficult]. Use the hour to pay attention to your surroundings… doesn’t really matter what you’re doing, as long as you’re present.
In our future sustainable cities, these nature spaces are going to be more vital than ever. They might well be the only things keeping us sane – the only things that haven’t been upgraded and synchronised.