I just want to put this down before I forget about it. I’ve been noticing something very strange lately. Basically the more time I spend on the computer because I’m hungering for that “connection” with others on this planet, the less connected I actually feel. In effect, our world is more connected than it has ever been, yet people are more disconnected than they have ever been. Why?
And what is more amazing is how come it has been this way for so long, yet nothing has seemed to change? You see Charlie Chaplin hinted at this in his Final Speech of The Great Dictator back in 1940 before computers and the Web really took off.
We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in: machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little: More than machinery we need humanity; More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.
What stood out for me were these words: “we…feel too little” (need more meaning to connect us emotionally), “we need humanity” (and humanity was mentioned in Tim Berners-Lee’s speech), “we need kindness and gentleness” (need a culture that promotes these values).
And yet if I watch a movie, read a book, or listening to music and immerse myself in what is being said in these mediums, then I actually feel more connected to the world around me than I do sitting upon the computer. Why?
I’m guessing because all of these things (movies, music, and books) are basically just stories. But that’s just it. I think we as a people don’t really realize how powerful stories are in the sense of how much complex data (for lack of a better word) can be stored within something so simple. In other words, a single story can provide a multitude of connections and meanings within it. To me it almost feels like these multitude of stories are creating invisible bonds and connections between each of us that creates this “Web of life”. Yet if you look at the Web with all of its own connections and links, it seems so empty in comparison because it seems like these connections are so one dimensional. Another way to look at it would be comparing the complex connections within a story to that of a string of DNA. My question, though, is can we enhance the Web so that these connections we make can actually can contain complex information as easily as a story does? Is there a way to add meaning to these connections?
But here’s another twist that blows this idea out of the water. How come when I go outside and sit in the middle of nature alone, with no one around me, I again feel more connected to this planet and everyone around me again? I’m not hearing a single story while I’m sitting there, yet I still feel so connected. Why? What am I connecting to in this instance? Why do I have the same thoughts and feelings as I do when I’m hearing a story? It is because of the sensory stimuli that I’m getting which is firing off emotions and thoughts in my head? Is that what stories do for us? Do stories create this same sensory stimuli because the stories are played out in a our imagination like a virtual holodeck and thus make us experience the same sort of sensory stimuli which again enages our emotions and minds?
In closing, I think the Web is connecting us, which is why so many people are draw to it, and yet at the same time it isn’t providing a deep and rich enough connection that we would get in comparison to a story, which is why I think there is this sort of “emptiness” with the Web as well. We need to figure out how to add these deep and rich connections to the Web, so that it can evolve and connect us in a much more deeper and meaningful way.
I just had one more thought and it is kind of a weird one but I think it is a good example. Think about the difference between just having sex versus making love to someone you truly care about. If it is just sex where you are focused more on your own needs versus your partners, you more often than not feel exhausted and still feel “empty” afterwards, as though you haven’t been satisified. Yet when you are fully in love and you place more of an emphasis on your partner than yourself, then afterwards you often feel so satisfied, energized, and connected with that partner. Hehe, so….in effect, the Web right now just feels like cheap sex! You keep craving it but it isn’t really satisfying you because it is lacking that deep meaningful connection.