Gambling is one example of digital life. We think it’s an example of many big issues around our life online. Our devices are everywhere. Some of us spend many hours of our day, many years of our lives ‘hooked up’. Some would say just hooked, of course!
While we can all point to the benefits of digital technology there are voices which raise alarms about some aspects. We all witness, for instance, being in company where people are constantly scanning phone messages rather than interacting in a healthy sociable way. If we are ill we may be referred to online support: what, if anything, do we lose from missing out on face to face contact? Have digital media become extensions of our nervous systems – or have our nervous systems become extensions of ‘the digital machinery’?
More specifically, are we exploited by clever commercial enticements? Do we buy stuff we don’t need. Do we give in to repeated nudges to gamble? Are we gradually becoming impatient of time itself (so that most websites will only be visited for a few seconds unless something really grabs us)? Why do we jump from one thing to the other, never settle, always restless? Remembering that modern television is digital and utilises many methods of obtaining viewers, is there something in our digital lives that keeps us seeking constant distraction. If so, distraction from what? Boredom perhaps. Why would we be bored? Emptiness, anxiety, depression, boredom are all markets for someone to ‘sell’ us something.
Addiction itself has been called a disease of time, a dis-ease, and uneasiness with time. In the short-lived pleasure zone of the ‘fix’, time drops away, along with anxiety, restlessness. Then the way to recover from the inevitable horrible feelings and consequences that follow, the only ‘cure’ is another fix. Time spent not engaged with addictive behaviour is spent thinking about, longing for the fix. It’s a cycle, it’s like being strapped to a wheel from which there seems no escape.
But extreme clinical addiction is only part of it. It may be the case that for many of us, a permanent state of restlessness or anxiety, inability to settle peacefully into the time of the moment, provides the fertile ground for marketing, profit-making.
Just a thought or two. But thinking’s the last thing we are used to doing. Quick! Let’s check our social media accounts, spend the afternoon internet ‘window shopping’. It’s here that for some the temptation to gamble is strongest, and the advertisements promise that everybody is a winner.
Humans have always been led astray, made bad choices, given in to temptations, been led by feelings, followed the crowd and so on. The idea that a human being is some sort of rational machine is ludicrous. The question is whether digital commercial (and political) enterprises have amplified our tendencies to go against our better judgment.