Zombification of the Senses

Jul 23 , 2022
By Kidist Yidnekachew

Thanks to social media, something seems to happen every week, which plays an endless loop of information and misinformation. There are parodies, reaction videos, conspiracy theories, news, and the novelty of TikTok at our disposal, just a click away, wherever we are and whatever the time.

With the sensory information we are receiving in such a concentrated manner, it would seem we have neglected something nearly every psychologist says is an integral part of the human condition. Persistent, traumatic events – which is what social media feeds us - can cause us to cycle (sometimes quickly) through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are our attempts to process change and protect ourselves while we adapt to a new reality. They are essential because it is our way of processing the information we have received; often, people’s opinions of a particular event change from the first moment of hearing about it to the next. This is because people have had enough time to process and understand the event in depth.

The human curiousness and urge to be the first to know, coupled with the social media companies’ business model, is fanning the flames and causing more problems than it is worth. Wait a day or two, or even a couple of hours, before responding to that piece of information that is triggering to process events in a healthy way. Most often than that, we would be less likely to post that forceful response we had in mind.

This is also not factoring in that almost all information gathered in the wake of an event is wrong, missing pertinent details or is based on hearsay. Our anger triggers others while not recognising that some factoids are unaddressed, and the whole thing snowballs into an uncontrollable mess.

Our social media behaviour has become a nightmare. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and can post whatever they like on their pages but do we even think twice about the consequences of seemingly harmless posts?

Worse still, the whole social media experience has desensitised us to topics we should prioritise. It has blinded us from looking at our surroundings. Talking about this with a friend, he told me an interesting story about when he used to work in a hotel then.

He showed around one of the guests who came to the hotel where he worked. She happened to be an American. At some point during the tour, the lady disappeared. My friend started to look for her fanatically. Lucky for him, he found her a few meters away, crying after seeing a homeless man with elephantiasis, a condition in which a limb or other part of the body becomes very enlarged.

Feeling bad for the guy, she took all the money she had in her bag and gave it to him. She even asked my friend if he had some money with him to add to what she had already given to the man. This was, in a way, a new experience for her.

For residents of Addis Abeba, it is common to see homeless people with physical disabilities. We feel bad for them and throw them a few coins every now and then, but that is about it. Their misfortune is common and has desensitised us to that kind of suffering. We have also convinced ourselves we cannot really help these individuals. But it was a new experience for the tourist.

The same is happening to us on social media but on a larger scale. We are becoming desensitised to a range of phenomena. As we are introduced to certain things daily, we do not react to them the same way as we did the first time. Bit by bit, we lose our senses and emotions, eventually accepting the phenomenon as normal.

Social media, as much as it plays a major role in introducing us to a new phenomenon, also desensitises us to issues we should care more about but have become familiar to our sensory experiences. It is not good.

PUBLISHED ON Jul 23,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1160]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (kaymina21@gmail.com)

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