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Vieraskieliset / In-english

Blog: Fat in the veins, bits in the minds

Vieraskieliset / In-english
12.9.2022 6.00

Juttua muokattu:

27.6. 09:55

Text: Ma­ti­as Lah­ti

Trans­la­ti­on: Sirk­ka-Lii­sa Lei­no­nen

Two of our child­ren ex­pe­rien­ced de­vas­ta­ting loss on suc­ces­si­ve days: their pho­nes broke down. I saw this as my luc­ky break. I went and col­lec­ted all the ot­her pho­nes, too, and dec­la­red that a no-phone pe­ri­od would start in our home right now. A 30-mi­nu­te hu­ma­ni­ta­ri­an cor­ri­dor would be al­lo­wed eve­ry eve­ning, as pur­po­se­ly cut­ting all stre­aks would be akin to a vi­o­la­ti­on of hu­man rights.

The ini­ti­al im­pacts of the ex­pe­ri­ment were di­sast­rous. There was mo­to­ric rest­les­s­ness, ban­ging doors, te­a­ry ey­es, stam­me­ring speech, apat­hy and melt­downs. But hu­mans are ca­pab­le of adap­ta­ti­on, and we gra­du­al­ly got on with our life – if not exact­ly as flu­ent­ly as pre­vi­ous­ly, at le­ast we were scra­ping along. The amount of sleep na­tu­ral­ly inc­re­a­sed sig­ni­fi­cant­ly. What is the sen­se of sta­ying awa­ke if you can’t even use yo­ur phone?

Like me, many adults pro­bab­ly ad­mit that they find them­sel­ves hol­ding their pho­nes em­bar­ras­sing­ly of­ten. As one re­se­arc­her poin­ted out, our li­ves are le­a­king in­to the In­ter­net. We seem to be lac­king a tail­bo­ard that would keep our whims in check. There are chinks and cracks in our minds that al­low us to es­ca­pe out­si­de our­sel­ves and the real life hund­reds of ti­mes a day. We deem our­sel­ves smart and awa­re, but un­for­tu­na­te­ly, soft­wa­re al­go­rithms are even smar­ter.

A few de­ca­des ago, a pro­ject cal­led the North Ka­re­lia Pro­ject was car­ried out in Fin­land. Its goal was to imp­ro­ve pe­op­le’s li­fes­ty­le choi­ces and he­alth and to pre­vent pre­ma­tu­re de­aths. But­ter and cream had pre­vi­ous­ly been lu­xu­ry pro­ducts, and when they be­ca­me more free­ly avai­lab­le, they were con­su­med with reck­less aban­don. The hu­man body, ho­we­ver, is not me­ant to pro­cess huge amounts of fat. The pro­ject ai­med to inc­re­a­se pe­op­le’s awa­re­ness of he­alt­hy li­fes­ty­le choi­ces, and the re­sults were re­mar­kab­le.

Not too long ago, elect­ro­nic de­vi­ces were so ex­pen­si­ve that they were not ac­ces­sib­le to all pe­op­le, le­ast of all to child­ren. Mo­re­o­ver, many pe­op­le wor­ked such long hours and had so many things to do at home that they did not have the­ti­me to end­les­s­ly seek re­a­di­ly avai­lab­le ple­a­su­res. The si­tu­a­ti­on is si­mi­lar to the but­ter and cream of the old ti­mes: the ri­sing stan­dard of li­ving has brought along so many de­vi­ces and chan­nels with so much in­for­ma­ti­on that the hu­man or­ga­nism can­not take it in. The stream of bits fil­ls our men­tal chan­nels and blocks them just like fat used to block pe­op­le’s co­ro­na­ry ar­te­ries.

Pho­nes are like lungs through which the world bre­at­hes. I be­lie­ve that the inc­re­a­se of men­tal he­alth prob­lems among child­ren is re­la­ted to this phe­no­me­non. Would this be a good time for a new pro­ject and a se­ri­ous ef­fort to make our li­fes­ty­le more mo­de­ra­te? We should not ido­li­ze he­alth – not even men­tal he­alth – but suf­fe­ring due to det­ri­men­tal li­fes­ty­le choi­ces is both sad and un­ne­ces­sa­ry.

Our child­ren have al­re­a­dy got new pho­nes, and our no-phone pro­ject has gra­du­al­ly died down. Our dai­ly life con­ti­nu­es in the way I as­su­me it does in most fa­mi­lies, with ar­gu­ments about sui­tab­le screen time. I have not yet been ab­le to ans­wer the qu­es­ti­on about the pro­found sig­ni­fi­can­ce of ex­ces­si­ve phone use. What nic­he does it fit, what va­cuum does it fill, what needs does it ser­ve? That qu­es­ti­on cer­tain­ly de­ser­ves thought.


Käänny puoleeni; Herra, ja ole minulle armollinen, sillä minä olen yksin ja avuton. Ps. 25:16

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