Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Jason Strangis
OUTSIDE THE BOX 

Are iPhones a Disease Or a Disorder? High-tech consequences and Invasion of the Pod People

"It's a malignant disease spreading across the whole country."

 

November 15, 2019

Teenage girl on a cellphone. Are cellphones a disease or a disorder?

"It's a malignant disease spreading across the whole country."

So states actor Kevin McCarthy as Dr. Miles Bennell in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." In that chilling 1956 science fiction classic, alien seeds drifting through outer space finally take root in fields throughout the planet Earth, replacing people with unemotional duplicates incapable of feelings of joy, sadness, love and potential romance. Impossible, you say! It's already happening, here, now, and something had better be done fast to stop this growing zombie plague.

As Miles Bennell, the humanist hero of "Invasion of the 'Body Snatchers," would emphatically scream: "You're next! YOU'RE NEXT!!!

Let's look at the dehumanizing effects of modern technology. Technology has moved so fast and furious that our current society is already resembling something from a strange science fiction movie. In just the past decade iPhones have sprouted everywhere and just about everyone seems to own a personal "Smartphone." Clearly there are many positives to this such as being able to talk with friends from anywhere, instant access to email, and constant use of the Internet.

But somehow things have gotten way out of control! Because of people's fascination with their cell phones and over-reliance on technology, social skills are sadly continuing to diminish. Wherever you travel, you will often see human beings staring blankly at their cell phone screens while coldly ignoring people who are around them. It happens in restaurants, bars, sporting events, you name it. It never fails to amaze me when watching two friends (if you can call them that term) out in public - perhaps at a restaurant - and both of them are silently staring simultaneously at their phones instead of talking to each other. So many lost souls take refuge in that small electronic device, devoid of all emotions it seems.

And what about current social media trends such as Facebook? For the most part I avoid such things because I think that this entire "Facebook Friends" phenomenon is a fraud, and geeky billionaire entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg is laughing all the way to the bank at the expense of "real relationships" being developed.

As acclaimed horror author Dean Koontz chillingly points out: "Many claim to have found a sense of community through the Internet; but this can be little more than an illusion if few of these long-distance friendships result in communicants meeting face-to-face and meaningfully interacting with one another beyond cyberspace... Many of us spend the evening hours online, staring at a screen rather than human faces, communicating without the profound nuances of human voices and facial expressions, seeking sympathy and tenderness without the need to touch.

"All the while, though our bones creeps the persistent feeling that we are losing our humanity. Increasingly alienated from community, family, and friends, we feel an uneasiness that at times borders on paranoia."

Chilling! Koontz wrote that brilliant observation in an introduction to a tribute book to the 1956 science fiction movie, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." In that classic and timeless film a small town in California is slowly being taken over by "Pod People" - outer space aliens able to duplicate human life for world conquest. Although the duplicates look exactly the same there's one main difference between the "real" humans and the alien pods; the pods have no feelings or emotions. Also, the pods exist to form this "group-think" structure where conformity or Political Correctness is the main point of survival.

I can't help but consider many parallels to our current society. Take politics for instance. It doesn't matter if you consider yourself Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative. Mass conformity at the expense of individual expression can be a dangerous thing.

As author Tracy Knight pointed out in a brilliant essay in the "Body Snatchers" tribute book:

"The larger viewpoint is that the seductive and sedating appeal of passive compliance exists for all of us, whether we be establishment or counterculture or somewhere between. Cults of conformity seek out the same foundation no matter their natures... Each incarnation of Jack Finney's "The Body Snatchers" reminds us - through the vehicle of a story that is chilling, suspenseful, and masterfully created - that conformity spells the death of identity, spoiling the very lifeblood of human existence."

Rod Serling's timeless television series, "The Twilight Zone," often dealt with themes of conformity versus individuality. In one episode called "Number 12 Looks Just Like You," a plain-looking young woman named Marilyn who is fiercely independent fights against a transformation in a future society that will make her outwardly beautiful, but on the negative side she would lose her true identity and become just another pretty face with no real substance or inner beauty. Marilyn rebels against this, of course, but in the end she is forced into transformation - and we see the tragic consequences of conformity.

Young woman on a cellphone. Are cellphones a disease or a disorder?

Yet conformity is still a major theme in real-life 21st century Earth. It's amazing how quickly people want to conform to the latest trends and become "popular." Just look at social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. Look how popular these things have become, creating this frightening narcissistic, self-absorbed society. Plastic-looking young celebrities are tragically taking the lead in this dangerous mind-numbing trend, with star-struck fans blindly following.

Social media at times can be a good thing, but let's not let it get out-of-control. We need "real," healthy relationships now more than ever before. We need independent thinkers who aren't afraid to go against the grain.

The future is up to you. So put away your cell phone, stay off social media, and please get a life!

 

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