Last week, Billy Bob Thornton told MTV that he was “kind of an agoraphobic” and spent 56 seconds explaining how he copes with the press, promoting movies, and making sure the party comes to him so he doesn’t have to go out.
Very simply put, agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that can bring on some pretty heavy symptoms when the afflicted person is presented with certain public situations in which he feels escape might be difficult or embarrassing, or he might not be able to get help if a panic attack sets in.
But, while Billy Bob says agoraphobia keeps him holed up with his television set (in addition to his trusty “Bud Light and American Spirit cigarettes”) Joe Froemming of St. Cloud State University says the rest of the world is pretty much keeping itself isolated with TVs, iPods, cell phones, and computers.
I don’t know who this Froemming character is (regular reporter for the University Chronicle? Random university student who felt like venting in the paper?), but he makes some pretty valid points about how people are using technology “to avoid the world around them, which is a dirty and dying planet indeed.”
We get more upset over dead fictional characters than we do real people dying on the battlefields. We’d rather catch up with friends via Facebook than over a cup of joe. And, on those occasions when we can’t avoid leaving the house, we plug our earbuds in and ignore people.
Froemming explains all this by claiming with the invention of instant and text messaging also came our alarming degree of laziness (banging out “LMFAO” is so much easier than calling someone up and actually laughing, isn’t it?), though he doesn’t seem to think the general public is the only bunch to blame:
These distractions are a multi-billion dollar business. Companies make money on creating things to isolate people, then doctors make money telling these people that they are depressed because they are too distracted all the time and should go out and converse with a real person.
Are we living in states of self-induced agoraphobia? Depression? Or is it just sheer laziness and apathy? Are we to blame, or should we be pointing fingers at “advancing technology”?
I think it’s a bit of all that. Technology certainly makes it easier for us to block out actual news in favor of our own fantasy worlds and playlists, and it definitely makes it easier for us to blog about all the crappy things going on than to actually go outside and make a difference. Ultimately, however, it’s up to each of us to chuck the computers and iPods and cell phones for actual face-to-face interaction with the world.
Froemming wraps up his controlled rant with some words worth pondering:
As Jello Biafra, ex-lead singer of the punk rock group Dead Kennedys and now a social activist once stated, “living in an artificial world is a mental disorder. It is unhealthy for the psyche.”