Psychiatrist Says Handhelds Make Us Lonely

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A Japanese psychiatrist has written an essay that claims that while modern portable devices like the iPod and handheld game platforms might offer endless digital connections, they starve us for real human contact.

The reason Nintendo originally released Pokemon as two separate games back in the day – aside from the desire to get more money – was to foster social interaction. People would have to go out and find fellow gamers with the other version of the game in order to Catch ‘Em All. That philosophy seems to have persisted through the evolution of Nintendo’s handheld devices, with games like Nintendogs and even things like the DS PictoChat functionality.

But what if it’s backfiring? What if all of these fancy devices that let us plug in 24/7 are just making us more isolated and lonely? That’s the conclusion that Japanese psychiatrist Rika Kayama drew in an essay published in the Mainichi Daily News – so many of her patients came to her complaining that they felt withdrawn from the world, and she had been trying to figure out the cause.

An excerpt, via TinyCartridge:

“Today’s youth immerse themselves in worlds of their own right before our eyes, where they can live secluded from the rest of us. Feeding into these one person worlds, personal devices such as mobile phones and handheld game systems like the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS come on to the market one after another.

The ‘make your own world anywhere’ idea has gone too far, to the point that even on the train one sees people shamelessly putting on makeup or eating cups of instant noodles as though the train carriage was their own room. …

I feel that an increasing number of people are coming to my office saying, ‘Even when I’m in a crowd I’m lonely.’ Even when they are at a popular singer’s concert or when reading a best-selling novel, these patients can’t feel any solidarity for those next to them or those reading the same book.”

On the one hand, I do see what she’s getting at. Someone who just sits down and plays their PSP on the subway while listening to music on their iPod is effectively cut off from the rest of the world in their own little bubble, and it’s easy to see how those feelings persist and continue. On the other hand, who makes random small talk with strangers on the subway, anyway?

(Via What They Play)

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