One of my Facebook friends remarked about the number of angry people in his group and wondered if some of them were as angry as they seemed, or if they accentuated their feelings for the sake of having an impact? Facebook scribbles and tweets do invite us to focus on the itch of the moment and don’t really provide a total picture of the individual. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when a Denmark study asked people to leave Facebook for a time and measured their happiness quotient before and after the experiment. They found those who withdrew were happier during their absence than those who continued with the site. (The Week, November 20, 2015, pg. 6.)
It doesn’t surprise me that Facebook and other social networks can have a negative effect upon psyches. Dystopian minds can so easily find and feed off one another. Unfortunately, this solace in group-think can reinforce a view that life is without hope.
Perhaps we should stop talking among ourselves and spend more time with animals. We know them to be clever and resourceful creatures that, knowing nothing about climate change, are probably more cheerful than humans. Of late, the idea of talking to animals has become thinkable. Technology has made advances in this area, recently. “Melody Jackson, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech, has been outfitting service dogs with computerized vests. In an emergency, the animals are trained to find another human, then pull a mechanical lever on the vest that triggers an audio help message.” (“Look Who’s Talking,” by Clive Thompson, Wired, December, 2015, pg. 60.) Think: “Follow me. Human in trouble.” Already, scientists are planning ahead to a time when they can talk to dolphins and, naturally, cat owners want to play video games with their pets.
Too far out? Nope. Jackson has developed a touchpad which service dogs can use in conjunction with the vest. The idea for the invention came from dogs. During her experiments, pups learned the device she was working on could pick up signals if touched by their noses. Where will that lead? Well, one day, messages of the animals’ choosing may come unbidden. The question is, will we humans like what they have to say?
(Originally posted 1/7/16)