Monday 29 January 2018

Sad, true, but partial reality of the social media/ smartphone world

An astute and hard-hitting - albeit cynical, bitter and despairing - animation by Steve Cutts. Much too close to my daily experience to be written-off.

What is missing is the spiritual and Christian perspective that points to something better; because - taken at face value - this animation tends to reinforce the bottom-line morality of materialistic and hedonic values... It is based on the assumption that what-is-wrong is insufficient real peace, prosperity, kindness, comfort and excitement.

It does not challenge the distinctively-modern assumption that these values are what-life-is-about; merely suggest that the masses are being fed a fake, a simulacrum, via their smartphones.

The implicit 'message' is that what is wanted is that such things be really-real - not virtual.

But this is wrong, because many people already had such things; and before the current utter dominance of personal social media - there was (for many people, in many places) a world of substantial peace, prosperity, kindness, comfort and excitement... But it was not enough!

Materialism is not enough, and that was the good insight of the late sixties and early seventies counter-culture; when it was last recognised that materialism is not the answer, and indeed the attainment of material success in The West brought the fact into stark prominence. Material problems were solved - and yet the core problems of Life remained, untouched.

Since then, the Western masses have 'dealt with' this factual reality by ignoring it; by simply Not-Thinking - helped by the near universal addiction to the distractions of the mass and social media, and self-gratifying consumerism generally (plus drugs). Masses of people go through almost all of their life in a stunned, delirious and distracted state - never thinking about anything for more than a few minutes, tops...

This is the sense in which Albion and The West is asleep; albeit the sleep often involves frantic, ultra-short feedback-loop mental activity.

This is the state from which we must awaken - even though that awakening will initially be experienced as a slowing, an under-stimulation, a feeling of boredom - by contrast with the normal-everyday Western psychological state of hyped-up, brain-frantic insensibility.


Chiu ChunLing said...

Although I agree that the outlook is ultimately materialistic and despairing, I would caution against the focus on the real. To believe in a benevolent Creator God is to believe that our experience of the real world serves a higher purpose, one that may not be adequately served by experiences which imitate the satisfying aspects of experience without the same inherent costs of that experience in reality.

It has recently become evident that one of the major drivers of obesity in America is the widespread availability and focus on "sugar free" and "fat free" foods which use various flavoring tricks to imitate the sweetness and richness of foods containing proper sugar and fat. The problem is that, the bodily craving for actual sugar and fat isn't satisfied by artificial replacements (even if "natural" by some standard). When a sugar or fat free food designed to trick the physical senses is consumed, the digestive system prepares to assimilate sugar or fat, and when no actual, molecularly compatible and available sugar or fat shows up, the digestive tract triggers an alarm of something wrong, prompting an unconscious but powerful instinct to seek sugar or fat to "replace" what went missing in between the mouth and the stomach. Furthermore, it triggers an adaptive response to keep this craving at a higher level in the future.

This mechanism is crucial to survival in nature, where being satisfied by the superficial sensory illusion of caloric intake can be deadly. But it utterly defeats the entire point of sugar and fat free foods, because the body eventually adapts to the point where there is no satiation response even when real sugar or fat is present (also, almost no foods can be made to taste good with neither real sugar nor real fat, so most 'health' foods only remove one or the other, often with a more than full calorie count).

This principle is not restricted to "real food".

Chiu ChunLing said...

In many pursuits of life, the 'signaling' experience which people instinctively seek is naturally associated with a later consequence which is expected (and unconsciously) desired to result. Of more popular moral significance than dieting is the connection between sexual acts and relationships and children. The sexual instincts of men and women are for the purpose of having children, thus when men and women are having sex but not having children, their sexual instincts are to panic and try to seek more sexual opportunities, especially more partners, to compensate for an instinctive perception of low fertility (whether in oneself or one's partners). It is successfully having children which allows men and women to relax and feel instinctively secure about their fertility. Also, it allows them to enter the parenting phase of life, but that is a slightly separate issue. People who consciously choose to avoid procreation as a result of sexual activity are unconsciously throwing themselves into an instinctual panic about their 'inability' to produce children. This is especially hard on the relationships they should be forming in the beginning of their prime reproductive windows (children must not only be conceived and born, they then have to be raised, a physically demanding life-work).

The "real" version of some experience that we find instinctively desirable is generally the path to satisfaction in ways that we may not be consciously desiring but which, if they do not arrive after the initial signals of achieving the necessary preliminaries, will cause us deep unhappiness, often without our being able to consciously understand why. People eat "diet foods" and engage in non-fertile sex precisely because they consciously believe themselves to want the initial experience while avoiding the natural result. But at a deeply instinctual level, the existence of the desire for the preliminary sensation is a function of the desire for exactly that natural result.

There are too many other examples of this principle in life to enumerate, I tend to believe that it is characteristic of nearly all things that people commonly desire. Perhaps not all of them lead to spiritual improvement, there are dark desires that, perhaps, are better satisfied by illusions than by real experiences...except that they are not really satisfied, they ultimately are only inflamed.

Bruce Charlton said...

An interesting hypothesis - with maybe a wider application than food.