Psyching the Zietgeist:
Current Culture Through a Mental Health Lens

Grief, Loss, and Technology

My father’s birthday was March 14th, and I’ve been missing him a lot lately. He died two and a half years ago of Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia, at sixty-nine years old.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about my iPhone. This is because it’s been acting up–freezing on me for periods of time, refusing to give me access to visual voicemail. I called Apple tech support a few weeks ago. After half an hour of being-on-hold purgatory, an extremely jovial tech support guy assured me that my problems could be fixed by replacing the battery on my phone. Then he said that since I have an older phone (I bought my iPhone fifteen months ago), I would need to be sent to a Best Buy store to have the battery replaced. “We don’t keep your battery in stock at our Apple stores,” he told me. He thanked me many times for giving him the opportunity to serve me. A week later I received an e-mail from him, saying that Apple had completed the necessary paperwork and that Best Buy would contact me “in two to five weeks” to set up my appointment.

We rely so much on our technology that we are figuratively (and with GPS, literally) lost without it. I managed to circumvent the two-to-five-week wait at Best Buy by spending another half an hour on hold with their tech support team and making an appointment directly. The woman who eventually replaced the battery on my phone was friendly, courteous, and competent. Thirty-seven dollars and fifty cents later, my iPhone still isn’t working.

What do we lose in our dependence on our computers, our smart phones, and the dense web of technology that gives shape to our lives today? The grief that I feel about my father, and the anxiety that wells up around my iPhone, both come from a gnawing sense of absence. I can’t see, hear, or touch my father. With malfunctioning technology, I am severed from the currents of communication running invisibly through the atmosphere. Suddenly, I am alone. A frozen iPhone and the dead space when we’re on hold with a faceless technology company both feel as cold as stone.

by Elana Kupor

Posted on March 20, 2018
Posted in Grief and lossTagged ,


The opinions expressed in this post are the views of the author(s) and don't necessarily reflect those of other members of the Women's Therapy Referral Service.

The On-Demand Culture and Therapy

We in Seattle live in a busy city, with its strong economy, burgeoning population, changing demographic, and the many challenges these bring. The corporate technology culture that’s become predominant in central Puget Sound exerts a powerful influence on our sensibility, values, and priorities. I call it the “on-demand culture”.

Want to buy something? Order it from Amazon Prime and it shows up in a few hours. Hungry? Find something that looks good on your restaurant app and a delivery person is at your door with an insulated bag, dinner at the ready. Need to get somewhere quickly? Get on your smart phone and Lyft will be there.

As someone who educates and matches clients looking for a therapist, I often see the ripple effect from this on-demand worldview. People now come to the search for a therapist with similar expectations, foregrounding convenience and immediate results. These are understandable requests but not necessarily realistic, nor are they reliable determinants for successful therapy.

Therapy entails a different mindset. Research has repeatedly shown that a good match in a therapist is essential for a positive outcome. When we’re in distress, it’s understandable that we want relief now, and it takes courage to reach out for assistance. But convenience doesn’t guarantee productive and successful therapist-client collaboration over time.

An on-demand culture may work efficiently for meeting practical needs but doesn’t translate well for our deeper well being. In fact, it is a significant source of stress. Therapy provides an opportunity to slow down, reflect, and create new ways of understanding and interacting with the self and the world. The result is deeper, more lasting transformation.

by Judy Koven, WTRS Coordinator