One of the most familiar themes that children are taught is that mankind is a social being. From the earliest age, the process of socialization is integrated into every learning experience or social contact. Getting along with one’s peers is preached as a primary objective for each succeeding generation. Departing from previous contemporaries has been a common trend that shapes and redirects society. Differences between parents and children are often stressed, but the shift among personal relationships, at its very core, has altered from the inception of the cyber age.
Baby boomers were the television indoctrinated, Generation X dropped out without ever watching the news or turning in to the social issues, Gen Y were technology wise and internet savvy and Gen Z kids became preoccupied with a diverse media and computer environment. The trend for each following group diminished their interpersonal skills and social interaction between their own crowd and among different age brackets, became more isolated.
Online dating often has more to do with adding a Facebook friend for chat conversations than for establishing a real relationship in the presence of alive flesh and blood vulnerable people. Relationships are not safe spaces. Snowflakes are not equipped to handle the harsh reality of criticism. Utopia for these pansies consists of mingling among milquetoast jellyfish. All others need not apply. Uncomfortable online contacts come with a delete button as a default response.
Ellie Lisitsa from The Gottman Institute argues in The Digital Age: Empathy In Utopia.
“Online, without nonverbal cues – without the ability to look into someone’s eyes, observe their body language, hear the fluctuations in their tone of voice – we cannot intuit intention or vicariously experience their feelings. A sense of right and wrong, responsibility for one’s actions, can easily vanish. And even if intimate connection is desired, deep emotional attunement becomes effectively impossible. In its stead, we are granted the opportunity to reconstruct ourselves.
We can edit idealized online personas, projecting confidence and omitting reference to perceived human flaws. We can spend months developing a satisfying digital self – a pleasing specimen without imperfections or limitations, and naturally, without necessity to experience negative feelings. There is little room in the midst of all of this perfection for genuine intimacy or authentic connection. In the wise words of Jeremy Rifkin, “There is no empathy in utopia, because there is no suffering.”
This difference between authentic interactions between live humans versus the solicitude of an artificial experience within an electronic universe is as unambiguous as playing World of Warplanes gaming and actually flying a bombing mission over hostile territory.
The attraction of existing in a virtual world insulates the emotions from pain and dulls the mind from confronting in your face dissention. Personal relationships vary by number and quality of intensity. The Bottom Line at the University of California offers up their conclusion in Technology is Destroying the Quality of Human Interaction.
“Past evolutionary psychology research by British anthropologist and psychologist Robin Dunbar has revealed that people are actually limited to a certain number of stable, supportive connections with others in their social network: roughly 150. Furthermore, recent follow-up research by Cornell University’s Bruno Goncalves used Twitter data to show that despite the current ability to connect with vast amounts of people via the Internet, a person can still only truly maintain a friendship with a maximum of 100 to 200 real friends in their social network.”
Lacking in most inquiries about the nature of social networks is an objective analysis about the superficial function and deficiency in the caliber of meaningful relationships. Some of the queries should include, WILL AI DESTROY OUR RELATIONSHIPS? – asks the following questions. How will our very own personal big brother change the way we interact with one another? Our ability to be honest with one another? How we speak to one another? Our ability to get close and form intimate and meaningful relationships with others?
Human nature has not intrinsically altered its fundamental character, flaws or aspirations with the contrivance of digital social networking. David Pearce explores transhumanists in Second Life the aspects of Superintelligence, Superlongevity and Superhappiness?
“Centuries of technological and socio-economic “progress” haven’t left us discernibly happier in the course of a lifetime than our hunter-gatherer ancestors. There’s no compelling scientific evidence that thousands of years of reshaping our environment has cheated the hedonic treadmill one iota. Will the future resemble the past? Almost certainly not. Tomorrow’s neuroscience promises to revolutionize subjective well-being, both individually and for our species as a whole. More speculatively, we may overcome our anthropocentric biases and enrich the rest of sentient life too.
But by how much? Unlike computing power, an exponential growth of happiness is (presumably) impossible, short of technologies beyond human imagination. Yet securing even an approximate linear growth of its biomarkers would represent a stunning discontinuity in the history of life to date. Posthuman versions of the Goldilocks zone – “not too hot, not too cold” – could potentially exceed the hedonic range adaptive for our hominid ancestors by several orders of magnitude, if not more. Will our posthuman descendants eventually decide, to echo Bill McKibben, “Enough!”. Possibly; but if so, it’s unclear how, when and why.
It’s worth emphasizing that the sorts of scenarios for posthuman mood-enrichment explored here aren’t, for the most part, an alternative to other transhuman scenarios of our future, notably superintelligence and super longevity. On the contrary, a fine-grained control of our emotions together with motivational enhancement should enable us, other things being equal, to realize these scenarios more effectively – and to savor their outcome all the more appreciatively. Nor is hedonic enrichment some kind of prescription for how to live posthuman life – any more than being cured of a chronic pain condition dictates how one should lead a pain-free existence. “The world of the happy is quite different from that of the unhappy” observes Wittgenstein in the Tractatus. Yes, and the world of the superhappy is quite different from the human world. Whether we’ll ever investigate its properties, however, is an open question.”
In order to advance contentment and fulfillment, personal relationships are an integral component in the formula. Virtual connections develop ties that conceal or omit authentic bonding or identify instinctive rejection. As the global network of cyber consolidation spreads, a world that has no secrets becomes a prison of controlled inmates. Artificial Intelligence replaces the experience of a lifetime of living with the matrix of precise acceptable behavior for future generations.
Learning how to Trust, love and fear: The seven stages of your future relationship with AI, might seem bizarre, but who would believe that the social networks would occupy so much public time at the turn of the last century? Using tools to enhance communication is certainly valid, but engulfing oneself into a virtual trance of manufactured perceptibility is distinct from living real life.
Is it any wonder that society is racing to demolish its social norms and with their demise, all semblance of Personal Utopias is destroyed? Look only to the wisdom of the Bard of Avon to understand the most naturalistic way to attain a consequential personal relationship.
As Prospero proclaims in Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” The ‘stuff’ Prospero refers to is not merely the object of a wish, but the materials of illusion. Think about it inside and outside your own personal utopia, whatever that may be. You may find there is a greater happiness to be found by understanding the materials of illusion rather than the relying on the wishes that your personal utopia promises. In the final analysis, we all have our own personal vision but have a shared illusion. Maybe this is a better way to connect in meaningful ways for relationships, self and the quest for knowledge. Consider it…
Society was built upon the core family relationship of father, mother and children. Now the virtual environment treats the various names of man and woman with disdain. Soon children will be spit out of a 3d creature producing machine. Will Future Robots be able to give Birth to Their Own Children? and making a humanoid genetic copy may well become the ultimate social network app. Imagine that the terms of service will require surrender of your offspring’s DNA so that the newly government regulated tech web has total omniscience over their subjects.
At that point personal relationships will become moot. The only kinship that would matter is the one that Big Brother dictates to their look-alike computer clones that place all their intimate thoughts and aspirations in the cloud for official scrutiny. This is the phylogenies of social networks.
We Should Bring Back These 8 Old Fashioned Dating Habits might not be the answer to put human authenticity back into relationships, but social networks need to counteract against virtual isolation. Ditch the tracking phone and attend social barbecues. You might be surprised that interaction with a real person might improve your personal relationships.