DO OUR EMOTIONS CHANGE WITH THE TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGES ?
In my previous two blogs , I had discussed the idea of generation gap and its relevance to fiction. I had suggested that it is not just the age difference but the different emotional stages of human beings that appears to us as a generation gap. However , the question of what influences our emotional development still remains to be answered. Our collective perception on this topic is that it is the social and family backgrounds that shape and control our emotional growth. By and large , this is also corroborated by the academic research. Though , there are different nuances of this perception between the popular belief and academic opinion , it seems reasonable to assume that this perception is valid. However , there is one aspect of our emotional development that has been missing from public perception. This aspect is increasingly being studied by psychologists but has yet to percolate down to our collective psyche. This is the aspect of the role of technology in influencing our emotional development.
It seems intuitive to lay persons that due to technological advances , our way of thinking has changed. For instance , it is common for people from older generation to complain about lack of arithmetic skills in younger generation. With the advent of calculators and computers, the younger generation does not need to remember the tables by heart. Therefore , there is no denying the fact that mnemonic tricks of remembering large number of tables and tricks of fast calculations are altogether missing in the generations growing up in the days of these calculating devices. While this inability to calculate numbers mentally does not produce any handicap in the cognitive development of young children , the fact remains that the technology has deprived these children of certain mental agility. While this influence of technology on our thinking appears to be self evident , the question is whether similar influence of technology on our emotions happens or not ?
In this blog , I would look at this aspect of technology. More importantly , I would discuss this aspect from a novelist’s point of view. It is one thing to say that our emotions are shaped by the technology and it is quite different thing to create characters personifying two different types of emotional responses. I became aware of this aspect of our emotional universe when creating a character who was supposed to have been reborn. The literary context of reincarnation is to show that basic emotional content of the reborn individual remains unchanged. However , the fact that the technologies would change in the intervening period, would obviously mean that the emotional development in two generations would also be different. It was while trying to keep balance between the emotions carried forward to the next birth and the emotions that were new in the next birth , that I came across this realization.
Therefore , let us see how the technology influences our emotional universe. At the outset , I would admit that I personally subscribe to the notion that human emotions are absolute in the sense that they do not change amongst different cultures and different times. I believe this to be true because we have all been able to enjoy great literary pieces irrespective of their vintage and their cultural origins. While reading Shakespeare , we are able to identify with the characters and experience catharsis simply because the emotions brought out by Shakespeare are universal. Similarly, which reading Kalidasa , we experience same catharsis even though the characters belong to the distant past. Therefore , it seems reasonable to me that there is something absolute about human emotions that transcends the cultures and history. In fact , this absoluteness of human emotions justifies the appeal of reincarnation in popular literature.
If this is true , then the problem is how could anything , let alone a technology , alter such universal nature of emotions. The answer lies in the fact that while our basic emotions are absolute , its nuances are not. What Shakespeare said about love being a many splendored thing , is true for all emotions. We experience same set of basic emotions in our lives again and again. However, every time there is a different nuance of that basic emotional content. It is here that changes in emotions manifest. In that context , let me discuss the role of technology.
I am sure most of you would agree that the most important change , that new technologies have brought about , is the way we communicate. The change consists of not only in the speed with which we can communicate but also of the content of our messages. Sometimes , our inability to communicate with persons close to us would result in a sense of restlessness and anxiety. This aspect of being separated from loved ones is universal and has found its expressions in some of the greatest works of art. However , in the days Skype and instant messaging , the sense of being separated from the loved ones doesn’t manifest. Obviously, the contemporary literature doesn’t have any such master pieces depicting the angst of separation.
In fact , this is true of not just the deprivation the sensuous company of our beloved , but it is true of all sensory gratifications. The inherent merits of delayed gratification and its role in enriching our emotional universe are lost in modern times. The on demand supply of pleasures has atrophied our sensibilities. Therefore it would be fair to say that the technology , in its abstract sense , has blunted our emotions even while increasing our sensory pleasures. The technology has disconnected our emotions from our sensory pleasures. To that extent , the technology is indeed dehumanising. It deprives us of individual sensibilities and therefore of our individualities.
In my next blog , I would discuss this aspect of changing technology in creating a changed sensibility of a person who was supposed to have been reborn. My focus would be on the problem of creating such characterizations rather than on validity of the concept of reincarnation.