Words by William Miller

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Credit: ABC News

Life is bleak, uni sucks, you never have enough time to do what you want, the train is always late and the news is always bad.

So what’s the point? How did we come to this?

There is a culture of anxiety that pervades the social consciousness. It speaks to the innate shyness of humanity, and it’s getting worse. Social media and technology plays into this shyness and allows it to grow and fester. The advent of widely accessible social technology is affecting our abilities to interact with one another to our detriment.

It is so easy to fall into your phone, and while catching public transport and you can see it clearly. Practically everyone is on their phone, most also with headphones in. You used to be able to have a chat with the person sitting next to you. Now even attempting it, it is very unlikely you will be taken at face value. What is your motive behind speaking to a stranger? It couldn’t possibly be simple human interaction. A lack of trust in our fellow man now means we can’t speak to new people unless it’s over a keyboard.

So instead, you tuck deep into the recesses of your phone, scrolling the same news feed that you’ve seen a dozen times today already. You like your friends posts, you tag them in memes, and you get on with your day until you can speak face to face with someone familiar, someone you know. Is this the modern condition? To quote Freddie Mercury, “is this the world we created?”

We don’t read for pleasure as much as we used to, I know I certainly don’t. And yet I spend hours on my phone wasting my time reading nothing of substance and hoping it kills the time. Why do we give in to this bleakness, why can’t we as a society, who stand up for each other in times of drought, bushfire, or calamity appeal to the commonality of humankind in the simple times?

Why can’t we speak to our neighbour without our motives being questioned? Why can’t we speak openly and candidly with our mates because we still have that feeling deep down we can’t speak to them about everything?

Urban life will only get more bleak and dismal unless more people take a step back and realise we are at war with ourselves, with the way we act and react with each other. We play into the notion of “Don’t trust strangers”, instead of “a stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet”.

There seems to be a strange Freudian push to celebrate or fetishise the depression we feel. There needs to be a massive culture shift for the people of today to say no to the discourse of abject sadness and misery and see that we are all yearning for that special membership of society. We as individuals can be introverted, but we as a society cannot. If we go further down this rabbit hole we will become more divided, and less understanding.

It is not just about mental health to stop depression. It’s not about destigmatising depression, it’s about societal change, about a broader sense of optimism that we lost somewhere down the line. What we need is sympathy and solidarity, not just online but in real life. That’s what counts.

Individuals need to step out of their comfort zone and they just might find they enjoy themselves that little bit more. And when this happens, the joy spreads whether you realise it or not.

I really don’t have an answer, but when suicide is the leading cause of deaths for Australians aged 15–44, and more young people die from suicide than motor accidents, I can’t help but vent my frustrations. Are we doing enough to make ourselves and others happy, or are we stuck in a rut on our handheld device?

Just because there’s an app for that, doesn’t mean we should be using it.

Written by

Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Nicholas Birchall, Felix Eldridge, Taylor Fernandez and Larisa Forgac. Email us at onditmag@gmail.com

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