Océane’s Live Stream Of Her Suicide:
“The splendor of the world begins with the fragility of a lone woman.”
This is not the muse of a man staring at the picture of a beautiful woman. Instead, it is a comment from an anonymous user on the Periscope app in the summer of 2016. He or she was watching Océane, a 19-year-old French girl, live streaming her suicide in front of thousands of online users.
And sadly, that’s the world we live in. Our online personas demand us to be edgy, funny and shocking at the cost of our emotional intelligence. But, aren’t we humans first, don’t we need to do better than this??
No Tone, No Emotion?
Each of us seems to have a different definition of what freedom of speech means. Just look at the online landscape of content, be it YouTube, Twitter or Tiktok, and you will understand what I’m talking about.
Communication in our digital age is becoming more and more linear. Our online messages to our friends and bosses have no tone, none of our intended emotion and can’t demonstrate our nonverbal cues. And can you imagine a live video feed like this where a teen was threatening to commit suicide for hours on end (and eventually followed through) had in its comments section? “You’re better off dead.” Imagine typing this out anonymously versus saying it to someone’s face.
A passive act like reading and that too on a flat screen is leaving us unable to process the intended emotion behind it. People who neglect the non-verbal side of communications, often leave an ’emotional vacuum’ which is harmful for themselves and others. With AI barreling down us into the future, there’s an urgent need for emotional mastery – the art of understanding ourselves and others. If AI understands us better than our own needs and what we must put into our shopping cart next, then we’ll become puppets in our own future.
Social Media And Types Of Communication:
Ok, let’s be real here. Seems like some form of social media will always stay, because we’re just used to being connected to everyone all around the world and won’t give that privilege up. But honestly, can places like Facebook or Instagram be a place where we can be talk about our ambivalence on life’s purpose or display our anxieties over the future of our businesses?
And have you heard of ghosting? That’s a form of communication that Millennial children started, that’s being continued by GenZers, and now being adopted freely by the rest of humanity. Basically, ghosting is when you fall off the face of the earth for someone you’ve been dating. You’re in essence ending the relationship, from your end, without any explanation or notice.
Most teens and young adults who haven’t had the chance to develop sophisticated communication skills or conflict resolution skills to manage relationships are taking this easy way out of sticky situations. It’s sad, but this is a flagship “communication” trend of our digital age.
Other forms of negative and unproductive communication involve criticism, contempt via stonewalling, and defensive and hateful words. So much of these are also a part of cyber bullying where you can stay behind an online wall of anonymity and say anything to a stranger from any part of the world.
Regulations Are Slow To Come:
One thing we can all agree on is that the comments sections on sites like YouTube or Yelp are the septic tanks of our society. And there’s a law that enables this septic tank to flourish!
“If I write something malicious on the internet, it’s my fault, and not the website’s fault.” Sounds strange, right? That a Big Tech company behind the website or app has no accountability to manage content that’s being put into their system by its users?
And we’re talking about the provision of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that gives such a pass to Big Tech. Now lawmakers are seeking changes to how this law works, and that could mean how content we post will be moderated online.
It’s a step in the right direction, because more regulation on Big Tech means they will be more accountable for the hate speech, violence and radical thoughts being propagated through their channels. But, we can’t forget how all this will impact our freedom of speech for the well-meaning diversity of ideas we can all bring to the table.
Sadly and realistically speaking, in the case of such concepts as Net neutrality, politics and lobbying can play a very significant part in the outcome.
A Humane Future For Our Digital World:
The point is, in our mad rush to build sentient (self-aware) robots, we’re losing our human edge. But, there’s hope. Empathy is a learned skill. It is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. When we learn to be empathetic, we can understand others and become more acceptable of them without passing judgement. When we see things from other’s perspective, we begin to understand that their rude behavior or their lack of respect towards us stems from a deep lack of respect for themselves.
While humanity is in the throes of technology, robots will overtake us as soon as they learn how to empathize. We’ll lose the battle, if we don’t mend our ways with digital detox and digital minimalism.
In the end, our life is simply an exercise in how often we choose to display our empathy. Who knows what our future holds for us? Robots might take our legs out for a walk in the woods for us, find our misplaced keys which chips attached to our forgetful brains and also call our mothers using our simulated voices.
But, when your mother answers the phone call, will the robot pick up the nuances and subtleties in her tone enough to understand that she is feeling lonely?