In this day and age you can’t throw a digital rock in the internet without running across a post or a picture about the Apocalypse, whether it is Zombie, Chimp, or Truck-apocalypses. Even a satirical post I wrote a while back remains one of my highest hitting posts since I’ve started this site. We as a society, have some inert fascination with the complete and utter destruction and downfall of the civilized world. It’s on television, movies, t-shirts, video games. This trend of defining our end has become so oversaturated that it has gone above and beyond just sarcastic comment. There are dedicated websites with rules of survival and how to prepare for impending doom.
From the beginning of rational thought, man has pondered how it all will end. We are consumed by the thought of our demise, and how we would handle it. That is nothing new. What is new is the idea that our downfall can contain fun and excitement. Almost a Live Action Role Play of some film or book we’ve read, but without the Role in it. People have spent countless hours debating their own personal survival strategy. They’ve taken online quizzes to prove to their friends that they could outlast an oncoming horde of zombies by using wit and a double-barreled shotgun.
Where has this all stemmed from? Where was the obsession born and why are we so enamored with our inevitable destruction? For me, the answer is also the catalyst that will define the cause of a breakdown of society, and we are unable to stop it.
The answer is: Technology
Before you hit ‘back’ on your browser, or push the screen on your I-Phone, humor me for a moment.
As I stated, we’ve become obsessed with our end to the point in which we have made a game out of it. And why is that? Because we have at the same time, become bored with life due to its convenience. If like me, you were born in a generation before everyone had the internet or even a cell phone, you probably remember spending a lot of your childhood outdoors. At that point everything was an adventure; you had the possibility for discovery. Now, that has been pretty much wiped out.
These days if you have a question about anything, a quick Google search or a look at Wikipedia will list off the basic understanding, and you move on. Any song or video is directly at your fingertips. Want to order groceries? You don’t have to even go to the store. Everything your mind could possibly come up with is almost 99% of the time likely to have hundreds if not thousands of WebPages, images, or videos associated with that thought or idea. Go to YouTube. Type in anything. You will probably find multiple videos. Click on that video, and then hey, there is a related video, and another, and another. Three hours later you look up to realize that you’ve spent the better part of a day looking at random clips and you don’t know why. It is as if the internet was a physic vampire, one that feeds off our own necessity of it. We’ve become so lavished by convenience that it has taken any sense of freedom or adventure out of our own lives. Instead of doing something, we have read or seen someone else do it, and don’t feel the need to do it ourselves.
Think about smartphones for a minute. I was over twenty when I got my first cell phone. The phone I first remember having was a rotary phone. Now, with the touch of your finger, you can play games, watch movies, upload pictures to Facebook, and countless other features right on a tiny screen. Parents will get their children these phones and keep them busy with Angry Birds for hours on end, instead of say, reading to them. These children are already as advanced as adults are technologically and that isn’t stopping. We are breeding a generation that has no will or need for discovery. It is all available so why work to get it?
Technology in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact it is great. We have learned so much and grown as a society because of it. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to have so many people read something I wrote without it. I’ve also met many people from all over the world and formed new friendships that would have never been possible without the invent of this technology. While that is all amazing and fantastic, it also has brought about a horrible trend over the past 15 years that is now going out of control.
This trend is a shift in ego/morality. Due to the fact that so many conversations are now had either through text message or online, our actual meaningful face-to-face conversations are practically gone. And with that has brought about the death of self-censorship. While I believe it is a great thing to stand up and speak on things that are important to you, it is not a good thing to take away basic human filters of respect for other human beings. Look no further than any internet forum or comment section and you will find some of the most hateful and malicious speech you could ever imagine. And it is so rampant now that it isn’t even shocking anymore. Anything that you at one point might keep to yourself is now thrown out at random with no thought on how it might effect someone else. When someone dies, Twitter is abuzz with who’s joke about that person’s death can top the next, while at the same time we jump on our high horse when we feel someone is breaking our personal belief of political correctness. We feel now that we have been given the ability to say or post anything we want without repercussion because it is done under the guise of an anonymous handle, but what we don’t realize is that the line between fictional online personality and real life personality has blurred. It is one and the same. Just because it is posted under a different name, doesn’t make you different if you would actually say it. It is still your thought.
Even our individuality has become a thing of the past. Scroll down through your Facebook feed sometime and notice how much of it is made up with memes or pictures that someone else made or came up with, that are now shared as our own personal beliefs or sense of humor. We rely on something else doing the work for our own creativity. It is as if we have become part of a collective, a hive mind that regurgitates everything we say or are back and forth forever.
It is not just in our homes anymore. Everywhere you go these days, almost offers as incentive to visit, a free Wi-Fi connection so you can stay ‘up to date’ even when you are taking a shit in their bathroom. We can no longer go anywhere without knowing that at any instant we can jump online to check the latest trending topic. Look around at a restaurant the next time you go out. You will see multiple people at the tables but you will also see most of those people with their heads down in their laps, clicking away at their phones. We take pictures of what we eat and have to share it with others, like some need is forcing us to document every waking moment because if we didn’t we would no longer be relevant. Even our language, which can be so poetic, lyrical, and beautiful, has turned into an ugly mash-up of internet lingo and short abbreviations; as if we don’t have time to spell out an entire sentence for fear that a digital sheep in Farmville will die if we don’t. It seems to me that we have become afraid of personal contact and can no longer interact unless it is through some other means of communication.
Technology can be a great thing, and I am just as guilty of some of these sins in this article as anyone, but therein lies the problem. We are dependant of the technology we created. Have you ever left your phone at home and had a panic attack when you realized you didn’t have it? I went 20 years without having or wanting a cell phone but now I would freak out at the thought of someone not being able to get a hold of me for even a few hours. Why do we NEED to be connected all the time? We can’t live in the moment anymore unless it is something that has been shared over and over again online. Which brings us to the second point of this discussion. Why this will also bring us down and how we’ve created our own demise.
As much as we are reliant on technology now, just imagine what it will be like 100 years from now. After generations have passed and no longer has the general population NOT been raised online. That would be the society they know, the life they know. But what happens when that all stops? What if one morning you woke up and tried to turn on the lights and they didn’t work. Your cell phone wouldn’t turn on and your computer screen was blank? You go to check the time but it is not working anywhere. You need to get to an appointment but your GPS isn’t working and you’ve never even seen a map before. You go to heat something up in the microwave but that doesn’t work, do you even know how to start a fire to cook food with?
We like to think that in these fake apocalypse scenarios that we would be crafty enough to survive the flood of mutated rabbits that has swarmed the Earth, when in real life, ¾ of the population would die off from small common occurrence. Some would just drink water from anywhere causing them to get some sort of bacterial infection from drinking unclean water, some would starve to death, some would freeze or be unable to provide themselves with basic shelter. We become so attached and owned by technology that just basic human survival isn’t understood by the general masses, because up until this point you could just Google it or watch a video. It is not a true ‘learned’ skill; it is a skimmed understanding and something that no longer comes as instinct.
Those that would survive the destruction of technology would now be faced with the greater threat; each other. Now forced into a situation where people have to face and deal with each other in real life, they no longer hold even the slightest understanding of social grace or acceptable behavior. As bad as the YouTube comments are today, think what years and years of that unfiltered speech and thought will make people into. These people, when faced with each other while not on a website, will not know how to handle each other. We always say ‘You wouldn’t say that to someone’s face’, but what if down the road we would, because that is the only way we know how to speak? Those left would most likely end up killing each other because they would take the battle out of the forum and into real life.
So what can we do to stop this, if anything? Unfortunately there isn’t a great answer. Technology will continue to grow and we will continue to be changed by it. However, while we are still in the infancy of this brave new world, we have the opportunity to shut off the phone, to stop looking at the internet. Life is all around us, it hasn’t stopped, we’ve just stopped paying attention to it. It is real and it is wonderful, and we only have it for such a short time, why spend it all in a mode of vicariousness?
Let’s go exploring.