All this brings sky-high expectations and stress. This is where the fear of failure and getting sidelined arises. Permanent stress to perform and to make it.
This is exactly why in South Korea’s performance society – as a backlash against the huge number of depressions and cases of suicide – the idea of an intense confrontation with your own finitude has emerged here.
And also the popular Netflix series Squid Game is an outright indictment of Korean society, which is extremely competitive and floats on social status. Those who don’t ‘make it’ fall by the wayside.
A long distance and a big cultural difference with Europe and the United States, sure, but those symptoms have long since ceased to be a distant show.
Currently, 1.3 million people in the Netherlands struggle with burnout symptoms. This increasingly includes people in their twenties and early thirties.
It is no coincidence that right now there is a strongly increasing demand for turning inwards; for inner peace and reflection.
Yoga and mindfulness have rapidly become hugely popular. There is a trend of ‘Easternization’ of Western society: attention to the spiritual, to inner peace and well-being – but stripped of religious influences – seems to become increasingly important.
We want to restore the balance.
And we have to, otherwise we will lose ourselves. The urgency is great: almost everyone is addicted to their smartphone to some extent.
Who can still hold an undisturbed conversation3 – without push messages and notifications?
Who can still be concentrated on reading a book for long periods of time without feeling restless?
How long can we be alone, enjoying the moment, without wanting to share it?
In total, how many hours a day do we spend behind a screen?
We all dread the confrontational answer. The ‘tech giants’ and all the app developers, have us where they want us: we are completely addicted and they make money from it. A lot of money.
In countless ways, we are manipulated to keep using the apps as much as possible, so that the phone slowly but surely gets stuck in our hand. It feels unnatural when it’s not there.
Continuous obsessive checking.
An addiction is something you do a lot and is not good for you. You don’t want to do it, but you can’t stop.
Until recently, it was still so black and white. Addictions were widely known to be bad for us: alcohol, gambling, drugs.
For smoking, it took a while – even now, even in the Netherlands, lawsuits are ongoing because it is even more addictive than we thought all along – but everyone now recognises it.
With social media – and smartphone use in a broad sense – it has been much more gradual. Integrated and fully accepted in society. All of us happily, but slowly sliding down a very subtle slippery slope.
It began, like the Trojan horse, as something we enthusiastically brought in and eagerly embraced. But we now know better.
Time has not stood still, in favour of developers. The apps and platforms have long since ceased to serve us.
It is increasingly clear that we ourselves are the product.
3 Several studies have shown that even a phone that is off, but visible during a conversation (e.g. on the table), has a negative impact on the assessment of the interlocutor and how we feel about the conversation. It makes us measurably unhappier.
4 Tommy Wieringa 2017 – Tommy Wieringa, ‘Living slow is a virtue’ (translated from Dutch), Leeuwarder Courant 2 September 2017, Sneon & Snein p. 17.