The Cheerleaders, pt. 3

Posted: October 27, 2021 in Cognition, Culture, Idle Nonsense, Media, Technophilia
Tags: , , , , ,

Continuing from part 2. I’m so slow ….

If cognitive inertia (i.e., fear of change) used to manifest as technophobia, myriad examples demonstrate how technology has fundamentally penetrated the social fabric and shared mental space, essentially flipping the script to fear of missing out (FOMO) of whatever latest, greatest innovation comes down the pike (laden with fraud and deception — caveat emptor). With FOMO, a new phobia has emerged: fear of technological loss, or more specifically, inability to connect to the Internet. This is true especially among the young, born and bred after the onset of the computing and digital communications era. Who knows when, why, or how loss of connectivity might occur? Maybe a Carrrington Event, maybe rolling blackouts due to wildfires (such as those in California and Oregon), maybe a ransomware attack on ISPs, or maybe a totalitarian clampdown by an overweening government after martial law is declared (coming soon to a neighborhood near you!). Or maybe something simpler: infrastructure failure. For some, inability to connect digitally, electronically, is tantamount to total isolation. Being cut off from the thoughts of others and abandoned left to one’s own thoughts, even on the short term, is thus roughly equivalent to the torture of solitary confinement. Forget the notion of digital detox.

/rant on

Cheerleaders for technocracy are legion, of course, while the mind boggles at how society might or necessarily will be organized differently when it all fails (as it must, if for no other reason than energy depletion). Among the bounties of the communications era is a surfeit of entertainments, movies and TV shows especially, that are essentially new stories to replace or supplant old stories. It’s no accident, however, that the new ones come wrapped up in the themes, iconography, and human psychology (is there any other kind, really?) of old ones. Basically, everything old is new again. And because new stories are delivered through hyperpalatable media — relatively cheap, on demand, and removed from face-to-face social contexts — they arguably cause as much disorientation as reorientation. See, for instance, the embedded video, which is rather long and rambling but nevertheless gets at how religious instincts manifest differently throughout the ages and are now embedded in comic book stories and superheros that have overtaken the entertainment landscape.

Mention is made that the secular age coincides roughly with the rise of video stores, a form of on-demand selection of content more recently made even simpler with ubiquitous streaming services. Did people really start hunkering down in their living rooms, eschewing group entertainments and civic involvements only in the 1980s? The extreme lateness of that development in Western history is highly suspect, considering the death of god had been declared back in the middle of the 19th century. Moreover, the argument swings around to the religious instinct, a cry or meaning if you will, being blocked by organized churches and their endemic corruption and instead finding expression in so-called secular religions (oxymoron alert). Gawd, how I tire of everything that functions as psychological grounding being called a religion. Listen, pseudo-religious elements can be found in Cheerios if one twists up one’s mind sufficiently. That doesn’t make General Mills or Kellogg’s new secular-religious prophets.

Back to the main point. Like money grubbing, technophilia might quiet the desperate search for meaning temporarily, since there’s always more of both to acquire. Can’t get enough, ever. But after even partial acquisition, the soul feels strangely dissatisfied and disquieted. Empty, one might even say. So out roving into the public sphere one goes, seeking and pursuing something to fill one’s time and appetites. Curiously, many traditional solutions to this age-old problem taught the seeker to probe within as an alternative. Well screw that! In the hyper-connected 20th-century world, who has time for that measly self-isolation? More reified Cheerios!

/rant off

Comments
  1. cafebedouin says:

    Mass media probably started with the printing press. Do you think of books as technology?

    Strip away radio, TV, computers and the Internet, people would move back to things that were common before. Without electricity, it’s easy to imagine a mass return to bars, social clubs and churches. People would play board games and cards. Some would read a lot more books. The only change would be there would be a lot less mass media and mass mind. But, is it better to have thousands of ponds or thousands of schools of fish in an ocean? Depends, probably, on what you think of as “good”.

    I know a few people that always have to have a television or radio on, because they don’t want to spend time thinking their own thoughts. I imagine games and “technology” more generally, could be used in the same way. But, strangely, I don’t know any that are hiding from themselves that I would consider “technophiles”. Could you lose yourself in learning to program? Sure. But, is it different than losing yourself when reading a work of fiction? Or watching a movie?

    What is the difference, say, in someone that always has the radio on, someone that spends all their free time “making” – whether needlepoint, model trains or whatever, someone engaged in say training for a marathon/bodybuilding, someone with literary ambitions, etc.? Is technology the thread here?

    The Unabomber called these “surrogate activities”, or artificial goals created because people don’t have to struggle to survive. When I read through this, I keep wondering whether this is a “technology” problem or whether it’s a larger problem that, even without electricity, most of modern life is devoid of meaning. And, is your critique really about this deeper issue?

    • Brutus says:

      Thanks for your comment. You pose lots of questions, but I daresay you’re not seeking answers to most. The cheerleaders I’m blogging about are those who have enthusiastically embraced and now proselytize for digital media that have been made more widely available to rank-and-file individuals who fall outside the legacy or corporate media. The upsides to digital media are low cost and wide reach, but the downsides relate to distortion fields that make content biased (sometimes woefully so) and destructive to both the creator and the consumer. Phrases like “lost down the rabbit hole” and “four hours I’ll never get back” and “cancelled by the online mob” attest to plenty who recognize plenty of traps to avoid.

      As to deeper meaning or its lack, yeah, I’ve been blogging about that over time. I’ve disclaimed the nostalgic frame in the past yet can’t escape the irksome sense that degradation piles up far faster than wholesome antidotes if one is fortunate to develop them.

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