Slate.com reported on a horrifying story yesterday about parents who, after giving birth to a child with some health complications, whiled away their time raising a cyber baby and left their real-world infant to starve. The South Korean parents met online, and soon developed a romantic relationship that resulted in the birth of a premature baby, whom they didn’t name, William Saletan reports for Slate. Instead, they dedicated their time to raising “Anima,” an online baby they sustained with hours of attention, slipping away from her infrequently to feed their live infant powdered milk. After one long session at the internet cafe, they came home to find their flesh-and-blood child dead; an autopsy ruled that she had died of malnutrition and dehydration.
While this exceptionally awful situation may merely be a “weird story about a sick couple on the other side of the planet,” Saletan writes, it may also be an extreme example of the way that we neglect the world around us in small ways every day, he argues, opting instead for the worlds that are so easily accessible through smart phones and laptops and ear buds:
“Every time you answer your cell phone in traffic, squander your work day on YouTube, text a colleague during dinner, or turn on the TV to escape your kids, you’re leaving this world. You’re neglecting the people around you, sometimes at the risk of killing them. The problem isn’t that you’re a bad or weak person. It’s worse than that. The problem is that all of us are susceptible to being drawn into other worlds, and other worlds are becoming ever more compelling.”
You don’t have to look far to find examples of this tendency to slip between “worlds” in everyday life—the temptation to quickly text your friend back while driving on a straight stretch of highway, for example, or to chat on the phone while doing your shopping, carrying on a conversation even as you pay the cashier at the checkout. Yet could these small daily examples be signs of a larger, more pernicious trend? As Saletan concludes: “South Korea is a warning of what lies ahead.”
Read the full Slate piece here.