A 2006 Duke University study concluded the average American today only has two close confidants, and SwissCom Inc. found that 80 percent of all cell phone conversations took place with only four people.
I fail to see how technology is the crux of this downfall in our society. When I was in my early twenties, I had a handful of what I considered close confidants. When I married however, and moved away, those numbers dwindled into the single digits, and as recent as last year idled down to one, my wife. Everyone I know, are acquaintances at best, though that number is starting to grow in more recent months.It was our decision to move 2300 miles from where we lived that isolated us, and in fact technology helped buffer that distance. Through email, Skype, VOIP, online social networking, cell phones, and video instant messaging, we were able to better stay connected to the people we knew and each other when we were apart.I think our fear of technology often makes it society’s scapegoat. When the telephone came out, doctors feared that the new technology would ruin their practices, with the patients’ new ability to communicate over a distance. When commercial radio became popular people blamed the radio waves for an increase of fish deaths those first few years. If technology truly was the force isolating us, and pushing us further apart, then the same argument could have been made for the postal service when people were able to send letter in mass around the county and around the world.
We are an adaptable species, and as new technologies arrive we will continue to absorb them, and adapt to them. Technology is not inherently good or bad, and everything can be exploited. The less you understand it, the more likely you are to fear it. And fear is one of the greatest tools of submission.
I think television has allowed us to live in ideological bubbles long before contemporary technologies. I don’t feel that this has come from our abilities to tailor the information we get. I feel instead this has come from the mass homogenization of the American culture. On the surface there doesn’t seem to be any noticeable difference between regions of our country. New Brunswick Main, Chicago Illinois, Los Angeles California, Athens Georgia, and Seattle Washington all have the same stores in their strip malls. We’ve all tasted a Starbucks Latte, or eaten a McDonald’s Hamburger. The more advertisers can whittle away at whatever sub culture we once had, it becomes easier to lump us into larger and larger target markets, and more simpler demographics. This makes it easier to sell us products, and in the end isn’t that all we’re good for in this ‘good life’? The entire world as well as ourselves have a sense of what America is. We are a brand name. We are designer jeans, non nutritional food, pickup trucks, and bombs. We are the cause and solution to every problem in the world’s eyes. People feel less of a connection to those around them because the things that we’ve places so much stock into making us happy, have betrayed us. Suddenly people are realizing that a second mortgage, and eight thousand dollars in debt is unfulfilling.
I would love to believe that money is not important, it seems much more ideal doesn’t it?
But when money plays a major factor in meeting your basic needs for survival, such as food water and shelter its hard to account for values. It seems one might not have to to consider such things until they’ve paid for their place in society. If in order for people to be happy they cannot be the victim of exploitation, I would go as far as to say that the entire economic system is a form of exploitation. “Man is born free yet everywhere he is in chains.” How is an 18% interest fee, charged for things that we don’t need not exploitation? We’ve been duped that credit is something that we need, a tool. We eagerly surrender ourselves to worship the things we buy at any cost, we yearn to join the bourgeoise as a society. All of our comforts met to a point where history will never favor our struggles or causes, because nothing in our lives have any substance. We shop for the sake of shopping. We try to keep up with the Jones’, we make the rich richer, and the poor poorer. All the while we wonder where the middle class has disappeared to.