The Psychic Impact of Technology
- Written by Frederick Gimino
Technology increased on a sigmoid curve over the past 100 years. The great boons of technological advancement during this period lead us into the current “information age”. The age where technology creates its own need and morality is so “five minutes ago”. Moreover, from a social standpoint the lines between personal image and public image became quite blurred. In fact, they may no longer exist. Furthermore, a likely consequence of our reliance on technology may be the death of free will, as we know it. Plato stated this as an inevitable outcome of all democratic societies, in one of his works called “The Republic”. As we voluntarily give up our civil liberties to totalitarian mind-control mechanisms that seemingly innocuous social media outlets, search engines, and propaganda agencies offer us to maintain cognitive consonance, in an irrational world; we quickly enter an age of antisocial automatons posing as human beings.
The conjoining of our private and public self does not seem like such a big deal at first glance. These boundaries, however, do hold significant importance to a healthy mind upon further inspection. Altering the filtering mechanisms that delineate between acceptable and unacceptable public and private behavior actually alters our core belief system, in our psyches. The move towards exposing private issues without fear or shame shows a very unsettling trend in our mores and folkways. In fact, it poses a significant risk to the moral fiber of our society as a whole. Moreover, the risks of societal decay are at their greatest levels ever because of these seemingly innocuous changes in perspective.
The insidious villains of this new form of social decay no longer go by names like King Louis XVI , Stalin, or Hitler. In fact, they have much more innocuous names. These “social” sites seem like great mediums for connecting us to the people, resources, and commodities we "need". And, they are free. Or are they? Ever ask yourself what the real cost of using these services might exact on you, your lifestyle, or society as a whole. The answer is probably not. Many of us just accept the “methadone” these organizations dole out without questioning the side effects. These organizations pose as benevolent benefactors doing a "public service" to benefit their “users”. It is a funny notion as your local narcotics dealer probably feels the same way.
These analogies may seem extreme to you, however, I assure you they do not exaggerate the truth one iota. The societal impacts of these information-gathering agencies not only “enable” you to attain immediate gratification (much like a crack addict gets immediate gratification from smoking crack) but they cause other irreversible psychological damage as well.
The psychic impact of social networks and large intelligence gathering agencies (like search engines) are extremely understated. It is no wonder they band together whenever they get any inkling of governmental controls, regulations, or regulatory agencies policing their unsupervised information gathering and subversion techniques. Just think about it the newest craze amongst these companies called “behavioral search” actually leads you to the information they want you to see based on your age, gender, socio-economic demographic, sexual preference….etc. Do we not remember, in the not that distant past, other organizations that categorized and segregated people based on these underlying fundamentals, like the Nazis. What will it take for us to wake up and see that our self-delusional views of control are just an illusion?
Our ever-increasing dependence on these companies to tell us what is relevant creates an environment that fosters dictatorship not free will. Our right to privacy no longer applies as we voluntarily give this right up as we participate in the largest collection of information, in human history. “Big Brother” truly watches our every key stroke recording our innermost thoughts, feelings, and ideas. The implications of this should terrify people but instead we embrace them. It seems irrational we would make a conscious choice to give up the personal freedoms we value so highly.
Theories regarding cognitive dissonance explain these types of maladaptive coping strategies that information agencies encourage for their own self-serving needs quite well. We make what appear to be irrational choices regarding our civil liberties primarily because we subconsciously desire people to tell us what to do, what to think, and what is popular. It is human nature to avoid making choices and the anxiety associated with doing so. We rationalize our voluntary loss of highly valued civil liberties with self-talk. This also helps us in dissonance reduction and reinforces consonance, in our belief system. The act of actually finding who or what we want quickly only acts to reinforce these maladaptive thought processes with positive reinforcement. In fact, over time our minds wiring changes. Mainly because marbleization of these maladaptive coping strategies occurs over time as we subject our psyches to the repetitive thought processes necessary to live the lie we create for ourselves. An unfortunate side effect of this process is the continuing decay of the moral fabric of society. One mind at time we lose our psychical ability to cope with everyday life effectively.
The 1980's commercial depicting a technocratic Orwellian future made a profound statement. We truly live in an Orwellian age and “Big Brother” watches us daily. The illusion of civil liberty and personal freedom continues to thrive, in this environment. However, we cannot deny the stark reality forever. At some point, someone must turn around to investigate the source of the shadows on the wall just as they did in Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave”. Unfortunately, only then will we realize how deep the rabbit hole really goes.