As has been discussed in previous articles, the faster we make the world move with modern technology, the more we want things to accelerate even more. Immediate gratification becomes a relative term. Yesterday’s immediate gratification can seem slow as molasses today, as new forms of technology replace older versions in order to carry on the business of the world. We no longer experience the process involved in going from point a to point b. Instead of experiencing a flowing blendable continual process, we experience just defined discrete point a and defined discrete point b. In effect, we no longer encounter experiences in the external world very much. Things move so fast that we just encounter a series of states of being.
To the extent that the external world can mirror and model for us, our loss of encounters with processes means that we lose our capacity to fully experience the processes that occur within ourselves, both physically and mentally. We no longer eat slowly to properly digest our food. We no longer sleep as long as we need to sleep. We allow ourselves less and less time to simply daydream. Everything is rushed like the technological processes that we encounter outside of us. Psychologically, we frequently rush to transient sexual and romantic relationships rather than long-term committed relationships. In work, both employer and employee frequently like free-lance contract work which requires no long-term commitment on anybody’s part. There is no time anymore to develop the flowing blendable continual processes that sustains long-term relationships and keeps them alive. Institutions like churches, synagogues, social clubs, political parties, unions, and service clubs have trouble sustaining long-term group membership. For their social contacts, many people prefer meetings where there are no obligations or commitments required. People just go to particular events – points of time – and then leave.
It’s the flow of a coherent life narrative that gives our lives meaning. But how can there be a coherent narrative, when increasingly all that we are left with, as a result of modern technology, is a series of defined discrete points on a line. The lack of a flowing coherent life narrative ultimately affects our ability to maintain a coherent sense of self. And without a coherent sense of self, it becomes very difficult to develop a unique enough perspective on the world to make and preserve meaningful organic imprints. A lot of things turn out to be interconnected.
When modern technology speeds up the flow of process so much that we can no longer experience it effectively, on one level, it is as if we are lifted above the flow of process into an experiential vacuum. When we can’t absorb the flow of process, we search for the safety of a vacuum to protect us against the tension-pocket aspects of accelerating technology. On the other hand, a part of us stays connected to the world through all the points of immediate gratification that we want to satisfy. And many of these points of immediate gratification relate to consumer technology which further separates us from the natural flow of process. But at least screen reality machines present us with series of digital stimuli that we are capable of absorbing on a shallow level. They provide protection against the tension-pocket disruption that result from encountering too many points on a line on what should be a coherent narrative flow in our daily lives. Screen reality also presents us with points on a line, but again they are presented in a pattern that we are now capable of absorbing to some extent.
Our need for immediate gratification is the mother of all addictions. And like all addictions, it is built on a loss of grounding. So what does this need for immediate gratification and this loss of grounding do to our sense of self? Our sense of self becomes the points on a line that represent each of our many different immediate gratifications. The process becomes unimportant. All that matters are the destinations. And the destinations are like temporary oases where we can temporarily satisfy our desires, before we are called to move on to the next oasis. We are never able to exhale and just appreciate the ground underneath our feet. We lack the internal coherence needed to hold our senses of self together. We become a bundle of disparate desires and needs. A bundle of pixilated desires to correspond to the pixilated technological world in which we spend so much time. The pixilated world that provides us with a fragile substitute for grounding, because it doesn’t contain the organic stimuli that could really act as a means for grounding us.
If we were actually able to experience the tension-pocket acceleration of process, it would fragment us, explode us apart. So instead the intended results of the processes that we set in motion just appear magically. With 5G technology, with the Internet of things, with 3-D printing, with all the modern forms of technology that transform the processes of our lives into magic. All these technologies interfere with our capacity to get into the groove of organic processes and make, receive and preserve organic imprints, and have meaningful organic narratives and prepare for death with surrogate immortalities. We are paying a terrible psychological price for our magical transformation of life’s processes. We are losing control over ourselves through our accelerating addictions. And we are losing control not only over what we do, but over who we really are and who we were meant to be.
© 2019 Laurence Mesirow