'Machines have altered our way of life, but not our instincts. Consequently, there is maladjustment.' - Bertrand Russell
Everything, now, is on a screen. And there is an oft resonating lament (usually from older generations), that we have lost what it is to be human. That we have lost the simple things, that once meant so much- largely because they required effort. The excited voice on the other end of the phone, at the one available time of the day or week to call. The romance of a written letter, to a lover or a friend or otherwise. Does each technological advance (particularly in regards to our social lives) take us further and further from the distinct poetry and essence of who we are? Maybe.
We have lost spontaneity. Contacting each other is not so much an event as it would've been, in the past. All we have to do now is drag our phone towards us and open up an app with a chat feature. We type our message, send it, and wait the half-second for it to be delivered. Done. Process complete. It is true- we do not know the wonder of waiting (perhaps hoping) for a physical letter to arrive. Opening it, to read over the only form of correspondence we were to have with a person for weeks or months or years at a time. And because we have lost spontaneity, we have lost drama. Sitting down, on the only phone in the house, to discuss everything that has happened since the last time we spoke. Now, we can send it when it comes to us. An overload of information. So much so, that things almost start to lose their importance. To become novelties. One of the most callous effects of social media is to turn each of our lives (depending on how we use it) into some strange out-clip of a reality television show. People can see whatever we choose to post. And we choose to post, because we choose to be seen. And yes, I think, we have always chosen to be seen. That is in our instincts. To wear the dress, or the suit- or at the very least hoping to be the one wearing the dress or the suit. But it is different now. Being seen in the past took effort. At least, more effort than sharing our days in a picture. Of us, or of what we're doing. To be seen. To be liked. Therein lies a major maladjustment. The acuity of social media's strike on... us. Our esteem, our worth. What else could the quantifying of something so human as the concept of 'like' result in, eventually, but the collective and individual erosion of mental health? And, regrettably, something of the drama of human nature. Its spontaneity. Its surprise. Its poetry.
What I like about Bertrand Russell's above quote is that it doesn't provide an 'after'. It says, simply, that there will be maladjustment. We know that. We can see it in others. We can feel it in ourselves. But it leaves open the chance (at least, I choose to believe), for readjustment. Or, perhaps, not an adjustment at all. A straight change. We have lost letters and the joys of isolated phone calls, true. But we can contact people on the other side of the world in a heartbeat. Is there not a romance in that? In our wildest imaginations being somehow available to us? In being able to 'see the helpers' (as they say), as an event unfolds? Innovation comes of need. We are living in a rapidly-growing (viruses aside) world. Letters and telephones and their like simply won't do anymore. And yes, as Russell says, our instincts do not alter. We will look for ways to connect. We will look for ways to reach out. And it may not feel as special as it might've seemed, all the way back when. But if we trust those instincts, our instincts, we will find a way for it to be special. We will find a way to find the drama and surprise of human nature in the commonest of things. In the overflow and relentless barrage of information and contact. We will find a way. And perhaps, just perhaps, we will prove the machines themselves, maladjusted. B. C. Taylor