Screaming from the Substrate
People all over the world are screaming for attention, muted by the silence of substrate; the panes of polarized glass that encase the liquid crystal of our devices.
Screams Not Heard
It’s not that people are quieted. Their cries are not suppressed. It isn’t that they are concealed. They are calling out with all their might, but unless we tune in and turn up the volume, we cannot hear them. Screams are a protective mechanism of our natural life. Screams evoke response from the people who hear them, because they activate the emotional center of our brains, called the amygdala.
The cry of an baby is the best example. When people hear a baby cry, the respond automatically. Moms especially, have to consciously ignore the cry, if it is not a child for whom they have any responsibility. Alarms work because they have a similar sudden increase in rough sound. We are jarred out of whatever state we’d been in.
When children grow, they learn that screaming is not acceptable any more. They must find other ways to get their needs met. This causes angst among many, because they aren’t taught how, just that they must, because screaming will be met with distain and rejection. We won’t hear of it! We try to maintain dignity, but deny humanity in the process.
Screams Just the Same
Our screams become something else, something other than the primal call for help. Our screams become behavioral issues, sleeplessness, headaches, upset stomachs, fits of rage, or depression. We scream differently. We scream just the same.
The only problem is that the screams are met with the same indignation and the rejection that a vocal scream would. A twelve year old child screaming out of frustration in the grocery store would be completely unacceptable, so that child must come up with a different tact. Perhaps, he will buy junk food or she will steal make up. Maybe, they’ll create an argument out of what to eat for lunch next week.
Their scream for attention and cry for help to navigate the world becomes a twisted, maladaptive method. They get in trouble and more distance is created by the effect of the misidentified need they have. They feel shame, regardless of how perfectly normal it is. Getting basic needs met is essential for proper human growth and development.
The Screen Lies
The screen feels like it will connect us, it seems like the answer, it genuinely looks like it holds the key. The responses and emojis give us that tiny jolt of neurotransmitters that makes us think we have found the way to get our needs for attention met. Then, when that split second is over, we are left with the flat, lifeless screen. We need more. We honestly and rightly need more.
Since it is not met with the same kind of vitriol as a vocal scream, we go back, we take selfies, and snap chat, and share videos and check in while checking out. Our lives are so full, but we tune into our devises because they don’t demand from us. They don’t insist we carry on conversations and really think though what we say. Screens don’t converse. They respond… or not.
More is what we need, so we go back again and again. The predictability becomes monotony. There are new apps to try, new contacts to make, and new groups to seek out. We need both stability and novelty. So, we seek both, as we continue to scream out for attention, for real connection, but it’s not there.
The Silence of the Screen
That silence of the substrate is all that we have. So, we turn up the volume, play the video, but it’s still flat because it is a screen. It feels like real people. There seems to be a contact. The fact is, we must have human connections. Our mental health depends on it. We can develop mental ill health without human contact.
We must have it. So, we scream for it in all sorts of ways. We move from stable behavior to risk taking. Then, to self destructive activities. It is a natural progression and a logical one. If we do not meet the need for human interaction and connection, we will develop anger and bitterness, which perpetuates the problem.
If you are an angry, bitter person with mental ill health, lying and being rude, cheating, and acting out in every way to get attention and you are rejected, shame, guilt, and anger will increase. There is no way around it. The only way is through.
But the substrate is impenetrable. We cannot hear without the effort of tuning in and we won’t hear at the slightest reason to tune out.
Put down the Screen
We must do the work of real face to face, in-person need meeting. Meet your needs and help others meet theirs by actual human contact. Get in the room with people. It is hard work sometimes and it can be scary.
What if they reject us? They may, but there are other people.
The only caveat I suggest is that the people are safe. Because while you are behind the screen crying out with all your might, there are predators who seek your vulnerability. They want to exploit your needs for their own profit. They will hurt you and turn your slight mental ill health into full blown trauma and maybe the core violation of sexual abuse.
If you have been screaming for a while and it isn’t working, try asking how to speak what you need. Ask a trusted friend or an adult from your family. Find a trusted church leader, but not alone, never alone. Become part of a small group. Be open. Make yourself available and put down the screen.