Living in a Parallel Universe

Posted by in August's Magazine

I like to set myself wee exam questions for Leither articles. The idea is to start with something that sounds outrageous and try to prove it’s true. This month’s starting point stems from observing the number of people walking along talking on phones, texting, or in their own wee technological world. Playing phone bingo as I walk up Leith Walk is a favourite pastime – counting how many people you pass in a row that are engaging with their handheld telecommunication devices.

You might think this is a slightly leftfield start point for a fitness and health page. However if you consider the health aspect, folk walking whilst interacting with phones are only half alive, like the undead, zombies of a new technological age. Physically present, yes, but not really there. Walking out in front of cars without seeing, blank eyes walking past friends, dumbly stepping over gutters without looking (or if you’re me, walking into lamp poles, very embarrassing). All this talking on mobiles is meant to save time, but does it? What do we talk about that we didn’t talk about before we had mobiles? A friend once told me, if you compare the 1800s to now, that we receive a year’s worth of information in a day. That’s quite a lot of extra information, although I’m not quite sure how they measured it. So it seems our brains are doing a lot more exercise than our bodies are nowadays.



Zombie disciples
You can now buy fully immersive gaming chairs to plonk yourself into. I know because I’ve seen them at Argos (ahem, not that I ever shop there). Technology is taking over our lives and we are zombie disciples to it. By spending so much time online or chattering, we forget our actual physical environment. It used to be rude to have your phone on the table when meeting up with friends, now folk sit together but text other people. Why? Do they wish they were somewhere else? Is it that urgent?

I was considering parallels with Orwell’s1984 and decided to consult my favourite resource Wikipedia, which reminded me ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ (mostly written 1984) is a dystopian novel written by George Orwell, about a society ruled by an oligarchical dictatorship. The Oceanian province of Airstrip One is a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, and incessant public mind control.’ Righto, not that different from today then. The main difference I can see is that rather than citizens being unwillingly watched over, we volunteer our life information to various well-known websites who are less than careful with data protection. Yet we are happy to continue doing it. It’s enough to make me want to flush my Blackberry down the loo and head out the door for a very long run in the fresh air. Speaking of which, when we first got our allotment, I made a ‘no Blackberry on the allotment’ rule (only natural berries, of course). However I’ve now started to Twitter (@tracygriffen) from the veggie patch. Husbo quite rightly points out that this decreases my effectiveness doing the weeding. And this is exactly my point, when engaged with the technological; we are less inclined to do anything physical. And using our bodies more is something we need to do.

Celebrity gossip
Some technology is good technology. There’s a wee Smartphone app called Waterlogged that makes funny sloshing noises and reminds the user that they need to drink more water. The idea is that you log how much water you drink each day and aim for a hydration target. It’s true most people need to drink more water and this is one of the easiest ways you can improve your health. On the food side of things, I quite often suggest to my corporate Personal Training clients that they set an Outlook alarm to remind them to have a mid-morning snack. Having a snack between breakfast and lunch is an easy way to keep the metabolism ticking over, so a start point for those who would like to lose weight. It is sad in a way that office folk need to set alarms like this, that they have programmed themselves not to be hungry at work and to prioritise the never ending stream of emails over their own physical wellbeing. But hey ho, that’s the world we live in today. We ignore the physical world and engage with the cerebral.

A flight of fancy, of celebrity gossip, breaking news, facebook friends and inane twittering… it makes us forget we are here. So I urge you dear reader, to have at least one technology free day each week. Switch off your phone and reconnect with your surroundings.


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