The fabric of society is being unwoven by technology and lockdowns.
We already had smartphones to keep us from getting together with our friends; now we have lockdowns, too, and it could get worse. The impact on society is significant, and change is foreboding.
What’s real? What’s “normal?” Shall we be casual about it? I believe there are two ways of feeling out the world, and it’s always done through face-to-face contact. Some people are casual, others are skeptical. From the eyes of a young person, say a 20-something, the world is a place where smartphones always existed. That’s an extreme angle, but sociologically, the process of growing up for someone today is vastly different than when I was in my 20s, when we couldn’t get a paper airplane to fly right!
It’s the smartphone in particular, along with Twitter and the spawn of the Internet, that’s changed our ways of being personal, slowed down our need to see others, allowed the isolater to isolate, and helps many people not leave the house for much of anything! When we add isolation imposed by the law, we shouldn’t expect people’s vision of “normal” to smooth out in any way. What’s happening is, we have lost our basis of comparison. For society to work, we need to know what other people think. For us to assess what’s normal, it’s a deep, dark hole of nothingness we have to make an assessment, when we don’t linger among a variety of people face-to-face.
Masses of individuals isolating, some being encouraged by getting free money, many having “too much time on their hands,” has already turned into anti-social behavior in clear ways. But the continuation of masks, social distancing, lockdowns and the attitude that there’s something to be scared of, all packaged together in a political offering that’s been consumed by millions, will continue to diminish everyone’s personal ability to assess what’s normal. It’s a potential opportunity to discover, and enhance, many (bad) mental attitudes that are based on (or feed on) fear, lack of trust and lack of personal contact. There’s a huge variety of problems, sociologically, which are, right now, waiting in the wings, if lockdowns continue.
When I was 20-something, what was real was …
- I wasn’t very good at baseball
- I was very good at math, better than the teacher!
- Girls were awesome
- If you worked hard, you could do well!
- Other kids can be mean
- You should be proud of who you are!
- People from all around the world are nice!
- The Japanese made some really nice sports cars
- America was a country envied by people all around the world
When reality changes, it really changes. There are tons of examples of how the world has changed since the 1980s, when a Datsun 280ZX was a living, breathing package of the highest-tech most people would ever sit in! We’ve lived during a period of tech growth unique in human history, and to look at it fairly with a social magnifying glass, the tech is cool as heck, but we’ve learned it can keep us apart!
When we get excited, as a society, we focus on things, like the latest gadgets. For me, a drone that can hover and take 4K video in the wind is nearly unbelievable; this was a classic struggle for me and my peers our whole lives: trying to get things to fly reliably! We tossed anything and everything, and it was only a few years ago I held in my hands a toy helicopter someone gave me for Christmas, that flied once and crashed horribly in my living room! The things they’ve come out with in the past two years have not only solved this problem, but show the laws of acceleration are alive and well in some pockets of technology. We’re sitting on a live, growing creature, holding in our hands a live, blinking, singing manifesto of the future, typing words into a smooth and silent beast of connectivity, customized to try and sell our personal feelings (and sometimes merchandise) to the entire world.
It would very hard to focus on anything else! But the young folks around us don’t think it’s amazing the way we do; they think it’s “normal!”
If I were 20-something today, what would be real is …
- Smartphones are awesome
- People are weird
- I don’t understand a lot of people
- I wonder if I fit in with all these people
- I’m glad I don’t have to play baseball
- No-one understands me
- I want to create something that will make money easily
- Being in crowds can be uncomfortable, especially if I don’t know anyone!
- I wonder if the world is going to end soon?
- I wonder if it would be better to live on Mars!
Us older folks are the ones marveling at technology. We’re the ones whose dads drove Model Ts – the way we see history is that it happened over a very long time – the Industrial Revolution and building of the railroads, invention of the automobile … these things took forever compared with the speed at which technology advances today. Younger people tend to apply what they know, and it probably looks like people of the past were very pokey, slow to adopt and improve and probably not very smart! It’s normal for young up-and-coming adults to try and put today’s “picture” of society in a box, then assess what their own future’s going to be like, and that process used to be built entirely around the wonder of one beautiful, sexy sports car … today the competition in technology creates an entirely different attitude, where the young person is anxious to cut new grooves in society, faster, stronger and better than in the past. They want to re-invent, and what they see is, it can be done! Everyone’s doing it all around them, efficiently, fast and lucratively.
In combination, with the whiz of technology planted permanently in young people’s ears, they lack social experience. Like a person frightened to get up at a podium, the more we distance-learn, distance-communicate, distance-date, wear masks and work from home, the more young people should be expected to become firmly committed to whatever social “groups” they feel they belong to. The point being, they’re not exposed, as they should be, to a balanced diet of differing opinions and new people. Of course, many young people are out face-to-face during their jobs, and this is a great example; never before has a young person, on the streets, in the workplace, dinner with family, not afraid to have discussions and meet new people … been a group you’d ever point out in society; it was just normal.
What’s normal, regardless of if it’s beneficial, can easily be invoked, embraced, and sustained.
If it’s easy, that’s good! It’s easier to stay home; easier to make money from home; easier to check in with friends by text. Years-ago, we wouldn’t have dreamed of gadgets that make the world smaller that are taken for granted today. A whole group of society is changing the ever-smaller world, and they see a world government, lots of fresh food growing in communal farms where everyone’s happy and the weather’s always warm, free this and free that, whatever you might need. Is it realistic? Of course not, and none of it’s a new idea to the most mildly imaginative among us, but it’s easy to see the belief, the push, the commitment, to ideals that shun capitalism, while embracing virtue, are even more irresistible to today’s hippie, because he has a computer that shows him all the tools are out there for him, and a smartphone that made him forget to … try playing baseball sometime.
It’s a society that’s big and growing, and ripe to divide itself, as happens all throughout history. But, as also happens throughout history, often shocking the older folks, the divide will be faster, stronger and better! Exactly how the new world shapes up will involve growing pains, but it’s easy to see the desire to change the world is a concept old as the stars, while the methods, likelihoods and especially sober thoughtfulness of it all are very different.
We think they’re all crazy, the super-liberals who want a one-world filled with peace, where no-one struggles and everyone takes care of everyone else. It’s unrealistic, but probably not a cause for consternation. Lockdowns, though, are a cause for concern.
From a sociological point of view, lockdowns have created a division that will be hard to fix, and until we can again dance together, spill drinks on strangers, get into an uncomfortable social situation (but know we’re still safe), until society can once again be a real society, the breakdown of social fabric will become rapidly worse; and that will cause continued strong commitment to emotion-based un-realities, bad scenarios and hopes and dreams that harm society. Without face-to-face games, meetings, dance parties and holidays with the family for members of society to use as a tool to check their own realities, we will continue to imagine society, not live in it, and continue to build our own fantastic ideas of how it should be. Technology has not done us any favors in the past five years as a growing society of loving, compassionate people, while it’s poised to make it easier to live without sufficient social contact. Lockdowns where we can live alone, not seeing people, because we can do Zoom calls and text and use the Internet, take convenient advantage of technology; let’s not let that be a good thing.
Fresh air matters.