In the last 20 years, we’ve begun to realize how similar the world is becoming. Currently, people from all over the world wear Nike slippers, Zara shirts, a Samsung Mobile and have a Facebook profile, for example. And many cities resemble the shopping malls, airports or skyscrapers that have developed. This has led to the decline of unique identities and the loss of tangible characteristics of local cultures, traditions and designs.Many blame globalization. Many accuse the Internet and new technologies. Some less believe that in the age of opportunity it is safer to copy than to create, to fit than to stand out. Others don’t. The awakening of consciousness in areas like this opens the door to new debates. One of them, as intense as it is complex, is the relation of the 21st century citizen to things. Especially those born in this century with a high technological component. Many devices have already been transformed into natural extensions of man; to dispense with them is like losing a sense. The relationship between man and his things has some regression syndrome: as a child clung to his doll or his teddy, the need not to take off from his “extension” is chronic. Objects are like electronic pacifiers that calm, in the conscious phase, but the excessive use of the thing generates in the unconscious plane an impact not entirely positive. Man without his” thing ” feels lost, overwhelmed, distressed, no longer feels a prisoner of himself, but of things.
When Protagoras stated that “man is the measure of all things”, he did not imagine for a moment that after things would be the measure of man. We would agree with the Greek in two things, the first in which his affirmation implied a certain cultural relativism (each society would act as a measure of things and the second is the anthropocentric burden, which puts the human being at the centre of the question.
What happens since the Internet exists is that access to information has opened pandora’s box. With such access we can travel the whole world without lifting our ass from the chair. See what more and more similar; see it.
But the Internet has not been and is not responsible for a culture that copies, imitates, emulates, repeats formulas already created by others. He’s just exposing it.
This is why it is striking that some authors and intellectuals, such as Jonathan Franzen and Mario Vargas Llosa, present the Internet as a cause and symptom of the homogenization and trivialization of culture. Is it right to accuse the Internet of having seized culture? As the frequency of expression increases, does its strength decrease, or does the opposite happen? Was there a broader cultural debate prior to the Internet? What exists now? Has the time come for the cultural impact of digital media to undergo severe re-evaluation?
The Internet is also culture, it is an essential part of our new culture. The speed at which we find ourselves is not the responsibility of the Internet. But thanks to the Internet we have discovered, known, shared new forms of cultural expression, new artists, new authors, new thinkers. We are probably not going through the brightest age in terms of ideas and creations, but thanks to the Internet, for example, we can say it, share it, denounce it, if necessary.
Changes go faster than debates and culture swells between what it was, what it should be and what it is. The digital has opened many doors while many closed their minds. There are critical voices in our new era and we will soon be witnessing doubts about the digital revolution increasing. While voices are raised that suggest that the Internet is surely exacerbating economic and social inequalities rather than remedying them. This opens up a debate that would require several posts, and in future posts we will return to it. But remembering Nietzche who wrote “What is good and what is bad is not known yet by anyone…”, his words remain almost as valid as necessary.
In recent years we have seen how the illusionary and radiant image users had of the revolution (transparency, democratization, empowerment) began to give way to a new vision of that new reality that can be exploitative, manipulative and even controlling. These people warn that the tools of the digital age engender a culture of dependence and distraction, an unconscious subordination that ends up restricting people’s behaviors.
On the personal level too, concerns are multiplying because of our obsession with devices. With our” relationship “with the object, with the”thing.” Jean-Paul Sartre said that ” man is a slave to his freedom, he is eternally free”, although today it seems that man is a slave to his “thing”. In several recent studies, scientists have begun to link some memory and empathy losses to the use of devices and the Internet and are finding new evidence to corroborate earlier findings that distractions from the digital world can hinder our perceptions and judgments.
When the superfluous invades us, it seems that we lose control of the essential. Many have created excessive dependence on e-messaging and social media systems, and this has begun to impoverish many conversations and even many relationships. The age of connect seems to arrive much earlier than that of love.
We already know, thanks to the Internet about how Facebook has conducted experiments to assess the psychological impact among its users of what we know as manipulation of emotional content and recommended news.
In recent weeks I have found myself in conversations and debates in which more and more people are looking critically and sceptically at the impact of new technologies. Despite their proliferation, detractors remain a noisy minority. Society’s faith in technology as a panacea for social and individual ills is still strong, and there is still great resistance to any questioning of its products. Even today, critics of the digital revolution are often dismissed as nostalgic, ludicrous and labeled as “anti-technological.”
Bauman denounced on several occasions about our challenges and problems, stating clearly and conclusively that “today there are an enormous number of people who want change, who have ideas of how to make the world better not only for themselves but also for others, more hospitable. But in contemporary society, where we are freer than ever before, at the same time we are also more powerless than at any other time in history. We all feel the unpleasant experience of being unable to change anything. We are a group of individuals with good intentions, but between their intentions and designs and reality there is a lot of distance. We all now suffer more than at any other time the absolute lack of Agents, of collective institutions capable of acting effectively.”
By confusing the advancement of technology with social progress, we have sacrificed our ability to see technology clearly and differentiate its effects. Technological innovation provides us with new tools to expand our skills, focus our thinking and exercise our creativity; it expands human possibilities and individual power of action. All too often, however, the misuse of technologies has the opposite effect. Such misuse of the tools of the digital age is engendering a culture of distraction and dependence, an thoughtless subordination that ends up restricting people’s horizons rather than widening them.
Immanuel Kant established that human nature is determined by”unsociable sociability”. It is curious that at that time when devices and the Internet were conspicuous by their absence he referred to the old version of shared solitude or sharing in solitude.
“Man has an inclination to enter society, because in such a state he feels more like Man, that is, he feels the development of his natural dispositions. But he also has a great tendency to isolate himself; because he stumbles in himself with the unsocial quality that leads him to want to dispose of everything as he pleases and naturally hopes to find resistance everywhere, for the same reason that he knows how to be prone to lend it to others ” wrote Immanuel Kant
- 1 Has the digital revolution caused our emotional” isolation”?
- 2 How is this new global socialization that the new technologies are creating affecting?
- 3 Or is it these new ways of relating that are leaving so many people more and more alone and dehumanized?
- 4 Is it “things” that begin to dominate man?
Has the digital revolution caused our emotional” isolation”?
To question the benefits of the digital revolution is not to oppose technology or progress. It is asking more from our innovators, from our technologists, from our tools and above all from ourselves. It is to place technology on the human plane that corresponds to it. It is awakening from the comfort of the ass sitting in the chair and transforming passivity into action.
Viewed retrospectively, perhaps we were wrong to give so much space over our culture and our daily life to technology. Maybe not. What is certain is that the time has come to correct the error or to deepen the successes.
This mastery of” the thing “over Man creates in the human being a dangerous attitude towards the world and towards its fellow man,”indifference”.
This attitude of separation towards life and others in real version.
It is distressing to see how in the day-to-day “the thing” is above Man and how the virtual replaces experience and contact with the tangible. This lack of connection with “what is” dehumanizes and deprives man of the possibility to feel and be empathetic to his surroundings.
Does it make human beings more sociable to have thousands of friends around the world, countless followers and reunions with forgotten people?
Or is it these new ways of relating that are leaving so many people more and more alone and dehumanized?
When what we do with technology prevents or limits being here and now it’s taking away the human from Man. It takes away the experience with what we used to know as “the real.”
It is very controversial to see how a vast majority of men today are more attracted to the “dead” and the “mechanical” than to life and the living.
If by “human being” we understand the only thing capable of creating feeling emotion and empathy for each other and the environment.
Nothing but man possesses that capacity and that is what makes him unique.
Is it “things” that begin to dominate man?
Man has become a great consumer but has ceased to attach importance to his creative facet.
Bauman himself stated that “we are used to a fast time, confident that things will not last long, that new opportunities will appear that will devalue the existing ones. And it happens in every aspect of life. With material objects and relationships with people. And with the very relationship we have with ourselves, how we evaluate ourselves, what image we have of ourselves, what ambition we allow to guide us.” What is beginning to be glimpsed is that man’s relationship with the object (let’s call it the Internet, Smartphone, Tablet, etc.) has risen to such a high level of need that it transforms one’s perception of the “thing”. Today there are people, many, who prioritize the object to any other aspect of its existence. ” Everything changes from one moment to another, we are aware that we are changeable and therefore we are afraid to fix anything forever, ” Bauman also said, and I agree in the phase of fear, in which the sense of abandonment, loneliness, irrelevance full of immobility to people who never had as many opportunities as tools at their fingertips.
In the last 20 years, we’ve started to realize that everything can be attractive, interesting. Everything can be scary or illuminate the path you couldn’t walk until now. The Internet, as a tool, is not going to give you courage or confidence, but it will open up endless opportunities for you to change your gaze. It all depends on how you look. You don’t even have to go away from your chair … what you can imagine is infinite and unlimited. It’s inside you. That’s a great thing. And with a movement of neurons and mice you can start doing, without fear.
” The important thing, “Sartre said,”is not what they have made of us, but what we do with what they have made of us.” Now, what do we do?