This article was posted exactly 4 years ago, October 2010. It’s worth revisiting….
Originally posted by Remittance Girl here , we are asking what is happening to us today due to a mass media and technological revolution.
Why is it disturbing to see the wife of a trapped miner waiting for her husband to come up in the rescue pod? Because instead of being able to privately experience the horror and emotion, she must experience it publicly. Worse, she is under a microscope with reporters commenting on whether or not her reaction is appropriate. Filming her every move, we then, as an audience, consume it and the effective desensitization remains arguably indicative of a serious shift in our cultural and social AND personal interactions.
Noticing how social interactions and boundaries are not just erased, but realizing how they are being re-shaped as I write this blog post, is the subject of what will be an ongoing discussion. Think about the massive changes that have happened in how we live our day to day lives. How we share information and experience being human has undergone a dramatic shift. We, as individuals and as communities, are expected and encouraged to bare our souls over the internet, on reality television, thru social networks, and more, in a manner that may be unprecedented in human evolution. There is no respect for privacy anymore but at the same time, we sit in front of a screen in private viewing another person’s public exposure.
This emotional voyeurism has taken the place of experiencing emotions, further distancing us from the most natural element of humanity. With so many platforms for distribution and easy-to-use devices for user-generated content, it’s like a virus has infected all of us to such a degree that many of us find it disturbing. But it is hard to identify WHY or WHAT it is that disturbs us, so we do not know how to communicate it and thus, many remain silent.
Is it the fault of the media for producing it or the fault of the public for consuming it?
Very few people recognize how the law of unintended consequences works across the course of human history and most importantly, how we are NOT immune. Often, our technology far advances our tactical ability and as a result, it takes years for cultures to either catch up or recover from the profound effects. Compare today with the age following Gutenberg’s printing press and the introduction of moveable type to Europeans in the 15th and 16th Centuries. Think about all of the changes that occurred due to the spread of information: The Christian Reformation, Scientific Revolution…
Now consider the Information Age of Media and Technology, for all its good but unintended consequences. It is a valid hypothesis to argue that we DO underestimate how our own brain functions are being effected: http://www.sfn.org/index.aspx?pagename=brainBriefings_MirrorNeurons
Discovered in the early 1990s, Mirror Neurons are revolutionizing the way Neuroscientists understand human neurophysiology and brain function. This could do for Neuropsychology what DNA did for Biology. It also explains why Remittance Girl poses a valid argument towards how this dynamic in media technology today may be damaging us. Most certainly, we spend more time in front of a screen than in a social setting or among a group of people. We experience human emotion more frequently via television, photographs, social networks, mobile devices and the internet as opposed to being physically present.
Mirror Neurons are “…a special class of brain cells that fire not only when an individual performs an action, but also when the individual observes someone else make the same movement… Now, however, many have come to believe that we understand others not by thinking, but by feeling. For mirror neurons appear to let us “simulate” not just other people’s actions, but the intentions and emotions behind those actions.”
As a student of theatrical theory and practice throughout history, I have been concerned with the shift from collective experience to a more isolated, much less kinesthetic way of experiencing life. Muscles atrophy. And what if the brain does something similar?
Then, yes, we are becoming desensitized. Imaginations grow dull. Attention spans shorten. We develop differently, communicate differently and if we are not careful to recognize the evidence, what will be the consequence? What, if anything, can we do to adapt to this changing environment? Charles Darwin said it best: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
We are far from invincible. Unfortunately, we are extremely vulnerable to the influence of change. Where we are today is significant. I just can’t tell you why because I don’t know. The one thing I do know, however, is that history has shown us time and time again, zeitgeist dilutes our ability to reason and understand what is happening around us.
What do you think new media platforms are doing to us? What are the possible dangers? What are the things that disturb you and why? What important social dynamics are we losing and what are we gaining? How is our language changing? Or is this all a bunch of nonsense compared to more important things like, Lindsay Lohan or Teabaggers?
There’s no right or wrong answer. And the discussion is far from over. I welcome your comments, as does Remittance Girl. Let’s pay attention and use this technology to learn from each other, not indulge in exploitation of one another.