» Technology and Mental Health
Technology and Mental Health

In this month’s article, the President of Men Mentoring Men, Paul Rodriguez, talks about his experience during a recent fishing trip as an example of the impact wireless “connectivity” has on our “conceitedness” with the world around us.

I recently set out to spend 5 days in what I thought would be the quiet beauty of Pulaski, New York. Standing waist deep in the serene and majestic Salmon River, I was seeking to try my luck at catching some of the wonderful salmon that are running upriver this time of year. The salmon run is truly one on nature’s great mysteries, and people travel from all over the world to try their luck during the six weeks from September through October. You would think that people making this trip would be looking to get away, to spend some quiet time getting back to nature in a magnificent setting. If, like me, you thought this way you would be wrong.

On the recent trip I took, our days started early. Usually we were on the river by six- thirty AM, looking for the best spot to wade in and try our luck with the salmon. Part of my criteria when walking the river and the surrounding banks was also to find the most removed or potentially quiet spot there could be. So imagine my surprise when, by 9 o’clock on the first morning while basking in the just up sun, I hear a cellphone going off. I could not believe my ears and quickly turned my head upstream to see this poor guy trying desperately trying to get into the Ziploc bag that his phone was in. While secretly hoping that his reception would cut out or that he would drop his phone into the river, I was forced to listen to a conversation about what his plans for the week were. Silly me. Why else would you come to this place but to have some quiet time and try to fish? Unfortunately, this was a common experience for me during my stay up north.

How many times have you been at a restaurant, movie theater, or bookstore and had to endure someone having an obnoxiously loud conversation on his or her cell phone or become annoyed at a person in line at the local grocery store holding things up because they are texting someone. I recently came across a survey by the Solution Research Group’s Digital Life America that states 68 percent of Americans suffer from anxiety and depression as a result of being disconnected from wireless technology. I found this statistic astounding. Have we as a society become so far removed from normal physical and social contact that we are letting these technologies affect our mental health? It appears as though we are.

I realize that life has its emergencies, and of course this technology can be a lifesaver when needed. But we have become far too needy and reliant on a technology that must be kept in its proper place and perspective. It seems that people are becoming less likely to interact with a stranger, or have some quiet alone time because they can fill their time on the cell phone or text the friend or co-worker they just left 10 minutes ago. I have become convinced that as a society we are becoming less able to relax, and that our lives are becoming filled with stress and anxiety. Technology is ruining our ability to stay within ourselves, or to have the quiet time necessary to recharge our batteries and lead a more harmonious life.

In a world were tolerance is becoming less and less acceptable, we need to spend more time connecting with people in a more tangible way: to make eye contact with a stranger, or to engage in a conversation with someone we may not know. These are the types of experiences that will enrich our lives and help to promote a world where we are more connected. So, when you get the opportunity to disconnect from your wireless technology, take it, and connect with the world that surrounds you.