It seems that despite the rapidly accelerated growth of science and technology, and a greater interconnectivity between human beings than ever before, I feel that in some sort of strange paradox the world becomes increasingly disconnected. Or maybe that’s how I feel from the rest of civilization: alienated. The net hasn’t really allayed this feeling of alienation.
Granted, in the world of flesh and blood, I am not what you call a social person. Although I can meet people with a certain modicum of success, it is making a connection with which I have the most trouble. I have a few close friends, and many strangers whom I have callously labeled acquaintances. But I am sure they care for me about as much as I do them, which is a polite way of saying ‘we don’t care at all’. I used to escape to the hidden realms of the web, meeting all sorts of eclectic figures, and a host of undesirables. In the days when I used to game a lot, I got to know a few ‘friends’ from around the globe. At one point or another we even developed behavior typical of a clan or a gang, hostile to intrusion and weary of outsiders, which was by no means a conscious decision.
But did I really know these people? And was knowing them really different than knowing someone you meet in the ‘real world’? I knew Gary was a teenager from Arizona, with a penchant for heavy metal; that Daniel liked Final Fantasy games; and that Dana was a particularly attractive young female from Canada who was a huge film buff. Our knowledge of the others was relegated to tidbits regarding what they liked, but mostly to how well they were at scoring headshots or commanding the Zerg.
Are we really defined by who and what we like? The answer would probably be a resounding ‘yes’. After all, how do you better express to the world what sort of a person you are than the kinds of art, music, movies, and whatever else you like? Don’t get me wrong. I am certainly not saying there is something wrong with liking certain things and telling people you like them. I am the first to admit I am guilty of it. But does the act of announcing your thoughts, philosophizing, even matter anymore? I have no clue. All I know is that the act of proudly displaying what matters to us hasn’t gone away, especially since some genius decided to invent the ‘reblog’ and ‘like’ functions.
The bottom-line is this: a non-optimist of almost everything (I have since become a non-optimist of pretty much everything), I used to believe way back when, with an emphatic nature, that the exponential progress of science and technology would be mankind’s saving grace. I turned out to be fucking wrong. Is it still possible? Theoretically, I suppose anything is and can be salvaged. And I have no doubt they have made many improvements in many aspects of our lives. Sure as shit I would rather be typing this than using pen and paper; to where would I upload my thoughts, anyway, without technology?
The future ought to have looked bright. And while in a sense it does, there are many who postulate a point in our future out of the control of human hands (if you do not already believe that control is an illusion). The overall standard of living has risen. But the benefits have been vastly unequal. Organized religions and their dogmatic beliefs ought to have been gradually erased. Instead, the opposite seems to be happening, and the world seems to cling to these outdated modes of thinking now more than ever (everyday there’s something else: abortion, controversially-stupid statements about rape, suicide bombings, riots, etc.). Increased connectivity means that anyone with access should be able to talk to anyone else, regardless of their point on the globe. While this has come to fruition, alienation and social fragmentation continue to escalate; class wars, tribal behavior, and the inability for human beings to connect to other human beings.
Maybe it is just me. Maybe I’m the X-factor, the outlier. But then I look around a little bit on the net and see masses of electronicized human beings desperately attempting to find solace in others. Ever been to Craigslist or any other dating site for that matter? It is a haven of spam and dejected individuals and people who I am sure feel a sense of disconnection from others. I am not saying it’s impossible to find people. I’ve found a few lovely women to whom I was greatly enamored, even for a temporary sliver of time, both off and online. But, that is what it was: temporary. Could that be what all human relationships are? Temporary? The search goes on, however, and this connectivity has done nothing to ease my fears of separation from the rest. And I know I cannot be the only one who feels increasingly alienated from the world at large.
Alienation is not a new phenomenon. Its advent is as old as social science itself, at least from a theoretical standpoint. But where Marx, Durkheim, Weber, etc. had but economic and political processes to deal with, our world now has the addition of high-tech. Most of my memorable life has been dominated by eight years of Bush, four of Obama, a global recession, and a world on the verge of total chaos, ready to fall apart at the seams. I guess if you listen to the Republicans, four more years of Obama might just cause the world to explode.
But technology has always been there. It’s been that comfort zone when I wanted to hide from the world. The sad, perhaps pathetic, reality is that meeting people has become easier than ever. And yet I have this odd trouble of maintaining a connection with people. It seems all so fleeting and artificial. The disconnection between body, mind and soul seems to be further exacerbated by the fact that many of us have an attention span that is, itself, fleeting and artificial. Information and sensory overload happen on an almost minutely basis, as we are continuously bombarded with info, data and imagery. Who really has time to read anymore? Want to bet most people stopped reading this after the first paragraph? No pictures? No thanks. The net has become a landfill of spam and automation, for which I am as equally guilty as the rest. It could be that I just expected too much from it all.
I have met plenty of people on and off the net, and while the net seems like a wasteland of superficial people (again, take no offense, for everything I accuse the anonymous of, I am more than likely also guilty), the “real world” is no different. We might not live an archetypal ‘cyberpunk future’, but this is definitely a world of increasingly higher-technology intermixed with an increasingly chaotic and fragmented and degenerating social structure and society.
Ah well, maybe in ten, twenty years I can afford to buy a lifelike android, capable of human mimicry. After all, if connections now are so spurious, temporary and artificial, what would be the difference?