As a result of technology, the very flavor of human relationships has been changing. As people are forced to live in environments with more and more sensory distortion from modern technology, they become more and more numb and hardened. People have to fight off the numbness resulting from the entropy in the frictionless vacuum environments that humanity has strived to create, in order to lift themselves out of and above the organic perishability that comes from being simply animals in a natural environment. People also have to fight off the overstimulation that comes from abrasive static stimuli resulting from all the waste products like crowding in urban areas, speeding vehicles, noise pollution, air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, all the discarded free-floating figures that are created as byproducts of building a protective transcendent technological living environment.
Developing a numb and hardened sense of self may be an appropriate defense to protect against technological sensory distortion. But such a sense of self also becomes another free-floating figure in a vacuum, a free-floating figure that finds it difficult to form deep-bonded grounded relationships with other people. I have perhaps not focused very much in previous articles on the nature of the human relationships in general that are formed in a vacuum and static living environment. I have primarily focused on the isolation that individuals experience psychologically in technological sensory distortion. But, in fact, people today are not total islands, and society continues to function at some level as a result of people interacting with one another.
Nevertheless, certain things are missing in a lot of relationships today. As individuals become more isolated free-floating figures with little grounding and little capacity to offer or receive grounded connections with respect to other people, relationships become more shallow and contingent. The relationship continues only as long as certain defined benefits are received. When those benefits are gone, the relationship is over. There is little real lasting coming-together of people. There are few real personal transformative imprints transferred between people in such a way that each of the persons is truly different from what he was before the other person came into his life. And this is because people no longer have the organic grounded aspects that allow them to make, preserve and receive imprints with respect to other people.
Contingent relationships are like clip-on relationships. Two people clip on each other for a certain period of time, during which certain defined benefits are exchanged. Then they unclip, and become a little more isolated again in a vacuum.
In modern urban society, where a person is juxtaposed next to a lot of different people, an individual can have a lot of clip-on relationships over time. And in order to keep them all alive, communication has to be made very efficient. A phone call takes less time than face-to-face contact. An e-mail takes less time than a phone call, a text message takes less time than an e-mail and a tweet is extremely efficient.
One accumulates a bundle of separate highly figured relationships for the same reason that one buys a lot of figure products and services. A bundle of clip-on relationships acts as a source of pseudo-grounding to compensate for the lack of real grounding in a more traditional organic living environment. Truly deep-bonded, grounded relationships are much more likely to appear when there is the template of a really grounded living environment.
But as our modern living environment becomes more and more transformed by technology, our relationships with other people become more and more contingent and tenuous. Many of our relationships today are formed and molded on the Internet. Facebook is not only a place where one can store, inventory and stay in contact with people with whom we have connected in primary experience in the sensory world. It is a place to strike up new totally Internet-based relationships with people that we will never meet, never encounter in primary experience. A large bundle of Facebook connections is like a cyberspace version of grounding, actually a pseudo-grounding to compensate for the lack of real grounding in the experiential vacuum of the modern external world. Some people have thousands of Facebook “friends”. Many of them are people who are encountered in order to make the connection and then they are never related to again.
LinkedIn does the same thing for business connections that Facebook does for social connections. However, by connecting to a connection of someone to whom one is connected, a person can find someone who can actually benefit his business in the real world. On the surface, that seems like something that’s very positive. But one has to spend time going through different connections that wouldn’t work out or that would work out minimally. And spending so much time focusing on contingent shallow bonded cyberspace relationships for specific purposes takes time away from focus on the kind of more deep-bonded grounded relationships in the real world that are so necessary for a sense of security in the world, a sense of mental stability. Connecting with people at a networking event is a far more grounded experience than connecting with people on LinkedIn. Cyberspace connecting leads a person to become simply a free-floating figure clipping on to someone and then unclipping. One becomes primed for contingent, shallow-bonded, pure figure-to-figure relationships. These are not the kind of personal transformative deep-bonded relationships that provide grounding and organic rejuvenation. Modern technological environments don’t stimulate deep-bonded relationships where there is true communion between people.
So free-floating figure humans don’t simply float in a vacuum. They clip on and unclip from other free-floating figure humans. In a large corporation, individual people become like parts of a machine that are bolted together, and then stay together until there is a malfunction. Then the damaged part (meaning person) is unbolted and discarded.
As people become more like machines, their relationships become more machine-like. A person today can come into contact in urban settings with way more people than a person who lived in a more insular traditional society. But because these shallow-bonded relationships don’t satisfy deeper needs, a person can feel as lonely as if he were totally isolated from other people, totally an isolated free-floating figure floating in a vacuum.
In a shallow-bonded relationship, a person is juxtaposed next to another person for a specific focused purpose. They metaphorically clip onto each other but remain relatively unaffected internally by each other. The two people never blend together temporarily through organic continual mental stimuli, through deeper emotions, to become transformed in some way by each other. This blending, this transforming is precisely what happens in a deep-bonded relationship. It means leaving lasting organic imprints on each other. Deep-bonded relationships are important for feeling fully alive and for preparing for death. They help a person to have a more coherent sense of self instead of feeling numb and fragmented.
Traditional more organic living environments provide a template for such deep-bonded relationships. Most of us don’t have such environments today and have no hope of reconfiguring the modern technological environments in which we are living. But with this understanding, we must try to make an effort to generate meaningful primary experience encounters and relationships anyway. We must find a way to prevent technology from always mediating between us and other people. This is our only hope to prevent us from becoming reduced to the level of the machines, computers and robots that surround us.