In the last 20 years, we started to realize how similar the world is becoming. Today, people all over the world wear Nike sneakers, Zara shirts, a Samsung cell phone and have a Facebook profile, for example. And many cities look alike because of the shopping malls, airports or skyscrapers that have been developed. This has led to the decline of unique identities and the loss of tangible characteristics of local cultures, traditions and designs, which many blame on globalization. Many blame the Internet and new technologies. Fewer believe that in the age of opportunity it is safer to copy than to create, to fit in than to stand out. Others do not. The awakening of awareness in areas such as this opens the door to new debates. One of them, as intense as it is complex, is the relationship of the 21st century citizen with things. Especially those born in this century and with a high technological component. Many devices have already become natural extensions of man; to do without them is like losing meaning. The relationship between man and his things has something of a regression syndrome: like a child clinging to his doll or stuffed animal, the need not to detach himself from his “extension” is chronic. Objects are like electronic pacifiers that soothe, in the conscious phase, but the excessive use of the thing generates on the unconscious level a not entirely positive impact. The man without his “thing” feels lost, overwhelmed, anguished, he no longer feels prisoner of himself, but of the things.

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When Protagoras affirmed that “man is the measure of all things” he did not imagine for a moment that centuries later things would be the measure of man. We would agree with the Greek on two things, the first is that his statement implied a certain cultural relativism (each society would act as a measure of things) and the second is the anthropocentric charge, which puts the human being in the central place of the question.
What has happened since the Internet came into existence is that access to information has opened Pandora’s box. With such access, we can travel the world without getting off our chairs. See what looks more and more like it; see it.
But the Internet has not been and is not responsible for a culture that copies, imitates, emulates, repeats formulas already created by others. It only exposes it.
That is why it is striking that some authors and intellectuals, such as Jonathan Franzen and Mario Vargas Llosa, present the Internet as the cause and symptom of the homogenization and trivialization of culture. Is it right to accuse the Internet of having seized culture? As the frequency of expression increases, does its strength diminish, or is the opposite true? Was there a broader cultural debate prior to the Internet, and does it exist now? Has the time come for the cultural impact of digital media to be subjected to a severe re-evaluation?
The Internet is also culture, it is an essential part of our new culture. The speed at which we find ourselves is not the responsibility of the Internet. But thanks to the Internet we have discovered, met, shared new forms of cultural expression, new artists, new authors, new thinkers. We are probably not going through the most brilliant era in terms of ideas and creations, but thanks to the Internet, for example, we can say it, share it, denounce it, if necessary.

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Changes are moving faster than debates and culture wobbles between what it was, what it should be and what it is. Digital has opened many doors while many closed their minds. There are voices critical of our new era and we will soon witness how doubts about the digital revolution will increase. At the same time, voices are being raised suggesting that the Internet is probably exacerbating economic and social inequalities rather than remedying them. This opens a debate that would need several posts, and we will come back to it in future posts. But remembering Nietzsche who wrote “what is good and what is bad nobody knows yet…”, his words remain almost as valid as they are necessary.
In recent years we have seen how the illusionary and radiant image that users had of the revolution (transparency, democratization, empowerment) began to give way to a new vision of this new reality that can be exploitative, manipulative and even controlling. These people warn that the tools of the digital era engender a culture of dependence and distraction, an unconscious subordination that ends up restricting people’s behavior.
On a personal level, too, concerns are multiplying due to our obsession with devices. With our “relationship” with the object, with the “thing”. Jean-Paul Sartre said that “man is a slave of his freedom, he is eternally free”, although nowadays it seems that man is a slave of his “thing”. In several recent studies, scientists have begun to link some memory and empathy losses to the use of devices and the Internet and are finding new evidence corroborating earlier findings that the distractions of the digital world can hinder our perceptions and judgments.
When the superfluous invades us, we seem to lose control of what is essential. Many have created an over-reliance on electronic messaging and social networking systems and this has begun to impoverish many conversations and even many relationships. The age of connecting seems to come much earlier than the age of loving each other.

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We already know, thanks to the Internet about how Facebook has conducted experiments to evaluate the psychological impact among its users of what we know as the manipulation of emotional content and recommended news.
In recent weeks I have found myself in conversations and debates in which more and more people are looking critically and skeptically at the impact of new technologies. Despite proliferating, the naysayers remain, constituting a noisy minority. Society’s faith in technology as a panacea for social and individual ills is still strong, and there is still great resistance to any questioning of its products. Even today, detractors of the digital revolution are often dismissed as nostalgic, Luddites and labeled as “anti-technological”.
Bauman denounced on several occasions about our challenges and problems, expressing clearly and forcefully that “today there is a huge number of people who want change, who have ideas of how to make the world better not only for themselves but also for others, more hospitable. But in contemporary society, where we are freer than ever before, we are also more powerless than at any other time in history. We all feel the unpleasant experience of being unable to change anything. We are a collection of individuals with good intentions, but between their intentions and designs and reality there is a great distance. We all suffer now more than at any other time from the absolute lack of agents, of collective institutions capable of acting effectively”.
By confusing the advance of technology with social progress, we have sacrificed our ability to see technology clearly and to differentiate its effects. Technological innovation provides us with new tools to expand our skills, focus our thinking and exercise our creativity; it expands human possibilities and individual agency. But all too often, the misuse of technologies has the opposite effect. Such misuse of the tools of the digital age are engendering a culture of distraction and dependence, an unthinking subordination that ends up restricting people’s horizons rather than broadening them.

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Immanuel Kant stated that human nature is determined by “unsociable sociability“. It is curious that at that time when devices and the Internet were conspicuous by their absence he made reference to the older version of shared solitude or sharing in solitude.
“Man has an inclination to enter into society, because in such a state he feels more like a man, that is, he feels the development of his natural dispositions. But he also has a great tendency to isolate himself; because he stumbles in himself with the insocial quality that leads him to want to dispose of everything as he pleases and naturally expects to find resistance everywhere, just as he knows how to find himself inclined to lend it to others” wrote Immanuel Kant.
Has the digital revolution been the cause of our emotional “isolation”? Has it been the devices that have exiled us from the here and now?
To question the benefits of the digital revolution is not to oppose technology or progress. It is asking more of our innovators, our technologists, our tools and above all of ourselves. It is to place technology on its rightful human plane. It means waking up from the comfort of sitting on our asses and transforming passivity into action.
In retrospect, perhaps we were wrong to cede so much space over our culture and our daily lives to technology. Maybe not. What is certain is that the time has come to correct the mistake or to deepen the successes.
This domination of “the thing” over Man, creates in the human being a dangerous attitude towards the world and towards his fellow men, “indifference”.
This attitude of separation in front of life and the others in real version.
It is devastating to see how in the day to day “the thing” is above Man and how the virtual replaces the experience and the contact with the tangible. This lack of connection with “what is” dehumanizes and deprives man of the possibility of feeling and being empathetic with his environment.
How is this new global socialization that new technologies are creating affecting us?
Does the possibility of having thousands of friends all over the world, an infinite number of followers and reunions with forgotten people make human beings more sociable?
Or are these new ways of relating to others leaving so many people increasingly lonely and dehumanized?
When what we do with technology prevents or limits being here and now, it is removing the human from man. It takes away the experience of what we used to know as “the real”.
It is very controversial to see how a great majority of men today are more attracted to the “dead” and the “mechanical” than to life and the living.
If by “human being” we mean the only thing in creation capable of feeling emotion and empathy for the other and the environment.
Nothing but man possesses that capacity and that is what makes him unique.
Are “things” beginning to dominate man?
Man has become a great consumer but has ceased to give importance to his creative side.

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Bauman himself stated that “we are accustomed to a fast time, certain that things will not last long, that new opportunities will appear that will devalue the existing ones. And it happens in all aspects of life. With material objects and with relationships with people. And with the very relationship we have with ourselves, how we evaluate ourselves, what image we have of ourselves, what ambition we allow to guide us.” What is beginning to be glimpsed is that man’s relationship with the object (let’s call it the Internet, Smartphone, Tablet, etc.) has moved to such a high level of necessity that it transforms the perception one had of the “thing”. At this present time there are people, many, who prioritize the object to any other aspect of their existence. “Everything changes from one moment to another, we are aware that we are changeable and therefore we are afraid to fix anything forever” Bauman also said, and I agree in the phase of fear, in that the sense of abandonment, of loneliness, of irrelevance fills with immobility people who never had so many opportunities as tools at their fingertips.
In the last 20 years, we began to realize that everything can be attractive, interesting. Everything can scare you or illuminate the path that until now you could not travel. Internet, as a tool, will not give you courage or confidence, but it will open endless opportunities for you to change your look. It all depends on how you look. It is not even necessary to go far away from your chair … What you can imagine is infinite and unlimited. It’s within you. That’s a great thing. And with a movement of neurons and the mouse you can start doing, without fear.
The important thing” said Sartre “is not what they have made of us, but what we do with what they have made of us“. And now, what do we do?

 

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