Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Internet and Technology.... Is It Desensitizing Society?

Waking up to the smell of coffee brewing, the sun kissing my eyelids and my cat purring in my ear, are all tangible, tactile experiences that everyone understands and comprehends. The smell of the sea air, seeing a harbour seal in the bay, hearing seagulls screeching overhead while a bald eagle soars by my apartment; events involving the senses. It amazes me how I can be so lazy one day, watching TV all day while the sun shines down on a city so often drenched with rainfall and grey clouds.

A week ago today, the city was alive, the hunger for a Stanley Cup in Vancouver so strong we could all feel the cool silver trophy on our pursed lips, as we kiss the engraved cup. The streets filled with a sea of blue and green jerseys, bars filled with a happy excited fans, helicopters overseeing the street parties; the jewel of BC alive with Olympic spirit again. There was an uneasy thread in the back of every one's mind, a touch of nervous excitement; worries of the team losing its chance to hoist the cup, and worse yet, the images of 17 years before, and the ugly side of humankind emerging from the crowd.

In 1994, the city was, again, in the race to the Stanley Cup, a similar joyous crowd gathering everywhere. This was when our city was innocent, like a toddler before its first tantrum. When the team lost, the city lost. Riots broke out, windows were broken, fires were set, looting occurred. It was a blemish on the heart and soul of the city. A disgrace, not only to every Vancouverite, but an embarrassment to every parent who watched their children vandalize their beautiful city.

This was an era when the Internet was beginning, video games ruled the entertainment of every teen, cell phones were practically non-existent. Video cameras, digital cameras, all the technology of today was not a common factor. People still reacted on raw emotion, using their senses to make decisions. The riot then occurred due to an over exuberant teen climbing high above the crowd on transit lines, who electrocuted himself and fell to the street in the crowd. A tear gas bomb landed in the crowd to clear the street to allow for a emergency vehicle in to rescue the injured teen. Unfortunately, everyone didn't see the fall, creating mass confusion and anger towards the police for contaminating the area and every one's eyes, as the crowd ran, trampling the weak and stumbling, causing more injuries and building the anger of the mass of people in the streets. There were also, mostly voyeurs of the chaos, standing back in awe, watching the small percentage of young drunken men, vandalizing store fronts, setting fires, looting stores.

Last week, during the hockey game, I felt a turn in the air, especially when I realized the beloved trophy was out of our grasp. I remember those riots 17 years earlier, the sting of the tear gas, the running confused crowds. It reminded me of the scene in The Lion King with the buffalo stampede chasing Simba and Mufasa down the gorge. I felt a touch of that fear of being trampled. I knew better and moved far away from that gorge, an hour before the buffalo run. If there were no TVs where I was, I would not have known of the city being on fire, except for the smoke and red glow over the downtown towers.

Technology was a costar in the Vancouver riots, definitely not a participant 17 years earlier. In this age of social networking and communication, one of the fuels of the riot had to be the Internet. When the Internet wears the black hat, portraying the enemy, it can incite a riot in no time, and the context of that riot, whether protesting a corrupt government, or simply gathering a group of Anarchists to vandalize store fronts and taunt the police, is lost in the violence. Wearing the white hat of the hero, the Internet was amazingly helpful, assisting the police in crowd control, pinpointing trouble spots, recording rioters and photographing acts of violence on people and businesses. Because of technology, we have immediate arrests, people turning themselves in to the authorities, and overflowing compassion for the business owners and injured spectators.

The many venues to communicate information is numerous: Twitter, Facebook, texting, cell phones, instant video and digital cameras and You Tube, are a few of the popular social networking avenues used to pass on the events of that evening. From the days of television, humans have been trained to be desensitized. Humans are lead by their emotions, the only beings on Earth with emotions, and as we create new and more exciting ways to engulf our senses, we also become numb to the those emotions that keep our species separate from the buffalo stampeding down the narrow gorge in Africa. Our senses and emotion give us the basis of our choices today. The question is: Have we created an overload to our senses, causing our species to shut down, equalling us to the ape on the other side of the bars?

There are many forms of interrogation focused around overloading the senses, where the questioned person weakens and  reveals the information desired. Bright lights in the eyes, overheated small rooms, continuous loud noise, starvation, and many other more painful ways of gathering information. This process is used to overwhelm the senses: sight, taste, sound, touch, and smell. Is the overwhelming information on the Internet, desensitizing society? We can watch CNN 24 hours a day, veiwing bloodied bodies of conflict over seas, we can play incredibly violent video games for hours, we can watch hard core pornography on the internet. Overloading all of these core senses must eventually desensitize us to the images we see day in and day out.

From Internet dating to Tweeting what you are doing in an instant, technology has evolved each and everyone of us. We react not on senses but on societal acceptance. Right from wrong is not an immediate reaction but an after thought, where it is right to clean a demolished city after a riot, but a dismissed after thought of the enormous wrong of the original act of violence. I am amazed how humans always test the boundaries in such an extreme fashion. In a way Vancouver was given such a good name all over the world, it was just bound to cross the line to fall from that high pedestal.

Yes, technology is and will be with us forever. If you look beyond the computer screen, the TV, the towers built by ever increasing technology, past the smog from the increasing population commuting in their cars, there is still that glimmer of beauty our city prizes. Turn off your smart phones, Ipods, TVs, cars. Put on your shoes and go outside. Smell the air, hear the sounds of the city, taste to ethnicity of our restaurants, touch the sand on the beaches, look up to the beauty of our mountains and wildlife around us. Regardless of technology, we can still turn it all off and enjoy our senses.



Jen McIntyre | Create your badge


animated counters
Betting on the horses is like gambling in online casinos. When you look for online craps
the Internet should be a good way to start. Give me a brick and mortar casino for my gambling anytime. site counter