Why do I feel like I live in an increasingly disconnected future?

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?

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5 thoughts on “Why do I feel like I live in an increasingly disconnected future?

  1. Well, I read your post twice. I had written you a long comment, but my computer decided to kill itself temporarily so I had to restart the whole things once again. So, here I am again. Thanks for reposting this blog. I feel as though you opened up yourself for a quick bit and then closed it once again…revealing your innermost thoughts and ideas. Thankfully, I’m the type of person who appreciates that and will hang around until you decided to open up again. Until you do again, I’ll keep reading about your film reviews. I’m a very friendly person (most Brazilians are!) and I like meeting fellow friendly people who brighten up my day and fuel my energy and soul. When I meet others who are polar opposite, I appreciate them too. I’m just a curious person. I love seeing what makes people tick and what motivates them. On WP, I have made friends from 18 yrs to 60 something from all walks of life. I think technology has dampened one’s ability to converse with each other face to face when one has the ability to just look up from their cell phone. Technology on the other hand has opened a whole new world of meeting others who would not be available on a one to one situation, in which case I agree technology benefits the people. One of my biggest pet peeves is fake people. I’d rather have someone be a total moron and stay that way consistantly than someone who smiles in my face and then turns their back and gossips and backstabs. I think people are fake these days because they are confused to who they are and “haven’t found themselves”. I know one person in my High School years who pretended to be someone else and got so caught up being that other person he had to get professional help because he lost himself completely. I’ve met loners and I’ve discovered that most of them are extremely brilliant and incredibly talented at something. I guess they spend so much time with themselves they tap into a different psyche in their brains that allows them to think of things most of us don’t usually think of. I’m not sure if I’m expressing that quite well. Hope you understand what I’m fumbling at. I care about my friends via online or not. Some people just want the contact to stay at a superficial level and that’s fine, but with it you have to understand what comes with that level and not expect more. I decided long ago I can’t complicate my life. Life just has to bring into my life very uncomplicated people. Why spend nights worrying about others when I know they are not even remotely thinking of me? Just a waste of time in my opinion. Maybe I’m too carefree. Great post though and it gave me some thoughts of what makes your mind tick. Sorry this comment is long. Thoughts?

    • I very much appreciate your comment but I think I would like to make a few things clear. First of all, this was not meant to be a “cry for help” piece. I am not desperately seeking out someone to come and talk to me. I would NEVER seek that kind of attention on OR offline. That is not the sort of person I am at all. Hell, I don’t even go around begging people to read my blog or promote it with effort, as so many people do. I am not saying they’re wrong, I’m saying that they’re not me. I am a solitary man by trade, and have been since high school, the last two years of which I spent as an outsider. And I still am one. Outside, looking into the world, it seems. I am also not “down” on technology. It has its uses. Or maybe I AM “down” on it, but I’ve become so accustomed to living in its wake that I do not know the difference.

      This essay was meant to be a lament of that very thing. How this grand thing we call technology was supposed to help us. And it has. But all of the things I believed that technology would help to eliminate have not come to fruition and have actually had opposite effects. Technology has harmed at least as much as it has helped, perhaps even more. I even wrote a paragraph describing its polar effects. I simply used myself as a springboard for a bigger issue, in this case, the focus being alienation. Perhaps I should have actually explained what social alienation is, what philosophers say about it, etc.

      Like I said, I am good at meeting people (or so I think), but it’s always making a solid connection which I have a problem with. When I was younger, I believed that technology would help to alleviate the alienation in society by providing greater connectivity than ever before, but it has not and so many of us are still alienated. If someone wants to stay at a superficial level, that’s fine by me. And that’s not what I care about. That’s not really the point here. My point was that people are superficial both on AND offline, but for some reason we make a big deal about how we are online. That’s the point I was driving at. Human beings ARE superficial.

      We constantly define ourselves by what we like. Who we are has become more important than why we are or how we are. If you go to places like Tumblr or Pinterest, people simply just click on a ‘like’ button or ‘reblog’. And I am not saying that’s ‘wrong’ (I do not believe in inherent morals). It’s made us robotic. Which is why I added that last bit, which was supposed to be half-humorous. At the rate we have descended, where individuality continues to give into collective behavior, and the human spirit is taken over by automated actions, what’s the difference?

      I think I may have confused some people into thinking this was a post about relationships or something, since I said it was “too personal” for this site, and the last line seems to indicate that I’ve hit rock bottom. I have posted essays about myself before, but I was never really blatant about it. Here I did what you said, “opened up”. I gave out more detail about myself than I would liked to have. But my post was meant to be as much about me as it was about society, about people in general. I think the tone of the piece (it seems slightly depressing now that I read it again, a week later, with fresh eyes) confused people. It was meant to be depressing, but as much a lament about technology as myself.

      Personal relationships are not necessarily akin to alienation. They CAN be, and usually are an aspect of social alienation that people experience. I think that’s what made this confusing. Because I mentioned my apparent lack of relationship along with alienation constantly like it was about myself, and myself only, when the piece was supposed to be about society as a whole, too. So maybe it’s my fault. Should have wrote this better. Furthermore, talking about my relationships (past or otherwise) would take another blog post, but that’s something I’m not interested at all in talking about at this point. In my mind I have already said enough. Heh. I also know I didn’t realize address the meat of your comment. I might do it later. Apologies.

  2. I really applaud what you’ve shared. I’m not sure if my response to your post is fully far flung from the message of your post, but technology to me seems to come with a bigger price tag than what we spent at the store.

    My generation is obsessed with technology and I continue to find myself out of synch to the environment around me. If you can’t push a button on a screen, like or reblog, then I am very well not much use to my generation. I can talk to someone, sure, but making a connection is few and far between. Every sentence begins and ends with “Oh, I like that” without elaboration or a point of window to get them to open up further. Dare I say people don’t have the time to talk because there’s always something more interesting to look at on their phones.

    For myself, I don’t find much use for technology, in terms of being addicted to tumblr, facebook, and twitter. I visit those sites but only for a few minutes a day to promote my blogs. Otherwise, I’m writing (on my laptop and by hand), working, reading, drawing, etc. – entertaining myself away from my laptop. Dare I say my attention span and openness to learning about others is much wider than my counterparts. I like to hang onto optimism however, because technology has provided me with the ability to meet others or discover things I wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s just a shame that we seem to be going going backwards exponentially rather than forward.

    • I agree with pretty much everything you said. I’m not trying to be a downer on science and tech. I’m more of a downer on social and human progress.

      I think that advances in science and tech have brought about tremendous changes. But you are very right: there is always a price tag, one bigger than we think we are paying. While science and/or technology advances at an accelerated rate, social progress, on the other hand, is struggling to keep up, or even going backwards, as you say. We’ve given people access to greater connectivity than ever before, but we’ve done nothing to solve our problems of alienation and depression (and other forms of mental illness). Science has given us more answers to problems than ever before, but still many of us cling to archaic modes of thinking (particularly religious). Etc.

      “Dare I say people don’t have the time to talk because there’s always something more interesting to look at on their phones.”

      That shit’s probably not even that interesting, anyway. I’d rather have a good conversation with somebody. The sad thing is that even if we were face-to-face, they’d probably still have their eyes glued to their phones. Everything has become a mode of superficiality and pointlessness. I use Tumblr and most times I’m not even sure why I’m using it. What’s the point? The only thing I can say is that I’ve found one or two people worth conversing with, but whether or not they think the same way about me remains to be seen.

      I think that there will come a time when we will be inseparable from the technology we create (it’s already happening in many instances). What happens to human progress then…?

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