The digital generation will be single forever

The creation of the internet has born a new age of communication. It has revolutionised the way we connect to the world around us. Nothing in the history of mankind has globally affected the human race on this scale. We are now more capable than ever to connect, share, create and display anything we choose. This ‘golden age’ we live in has fastened our pace of life and we have adapted to it unbelievably well, and in a short amount of time, because the majority of us simply could not live without it. However, are we aware that this tool has not become part of our life, but become our life?

On average we look at our phones 250 times a day. 90% of the world’s data has been generated in the last two years. The number of those using the internet every day has slightly more than doubled since 2006. The internet has not only changed our way of life, for the majority, it is life. The majority of those using the internet have been subsumed into it by being part of its growth, witnessing its growing relevance. But what about those who have not been party to its advancement – how is it affecting them? Baroness Kidron recently released a horrifying DVD called InRealLife where she asks two questions; what actually is the internet? And what does its constant presence mean to a generation who have not known anything else?

The promise of the internet was unimaginable. Many optimists were excited about the potential to help small independent voices be heard; the possibility of democratisation; its ability to invent; its inclusivity, diversity and freedom. However, this promise has been subsumed and the internet has largely become a playground created to exploit and manipulate in all senses of those words. The internet has become the latest and the most efficient tool for consumerism and is affecting our social relationships. According to Marxist theorist, Guy Debord, the consumerist system uses tools like mass media, advertising and mass manufacture to make us feel isolated. To get rid of this feeling of alienation, we must buy into the imagery the system creates both economically and emotionally. The internet offers that very social relationship between people which is mediated by imagery. Our new sensibility, ‘I share, therefore I am’ is causing people to not feel like themselves until we send out for comments in form for recognition. 2.5 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook every day.

Its narcissistic isolation, self-promoted alienation, estranged participation; this is post-modern consumerism. But the technological advancement of the system means that it gives people a dangerous quick fix solution. The internet isolates individuals just as quick as it satisfies them. So the chemical dopamine, released by the body when we receive recognition, is highly addictive and makes us perform in ways where we seek acknowledgment – status updates, tweets, BBM, Instagram uploads. The hash-tag symbol and its use is just another method of individuals in isolation seeking to become part of a ‘trend’. When we notice that flashing red light; that notification screen, we instantly feel recognised. And so, according to Debord, the ‘vicious circle’ that is created by consumerism continues. In this example, we will at some point in the future seek that biological high again and post another comment, status or picture.

It is in no doubt that the internet has altered the way we communicate. But only those who have experienced life without this form of communication would say that. Those born and brought up with this around them would perhaps not realise how we used to communicate in the past. The fast paced international interaction we are now beholden to means that this digital generation’s relationships are just as fast paced. It is now normal to approach potential partners in the same manner you surf your favourite websites, which is restless; always looking for the excitement of the perfect transaction; and subsequently, usually vaguely disappointed. In Baroness Kidron’s film, InRealLife, one teenage male claims “I have ruined the sense of love.”

We hear plenty of extreme and horrifying stories in the papers about children kidnapped, murdered and sexually assaulted because of the internet. However, this is not my point – my point is that each case points to elements of a culture that has become all but universal. This culture has been promoted by those who govern the internet and the systems used to access it like Google, Apple, Samsung, etc. Promotion is driven by capitalist forces like consumerism which has made our social interactions into a ‘culture of transaction’. The alienation and isolation created by the system, according to Debord, could mean that the digital generation’s culture of transaction could leave them in a vicious circle of isolation, unable to make long-standing, stable and committed relationships. Family breakdown; the number of children entering care; divorce rates – these are all rising at an incomparable rate. Has the internet caused this? It’s debatable but there are strong links to suggest this could be the case. What is disturbing and worth noting is that Debord warns us that we do not have the option to opt out of the system. Only in time can we tell. However in time the internet will become even more ingrained in our society.