Noticing the effects of a franctic age 1

Will put up one or two posts on the effects of our speeded-up world and social media on the human psyche, partly prompted by reading this address of Pope Benedict XVI to a group of contemplative monks. His remarks, although from a philosophical perspective, reflect the most recent scientific research on the fact that increased internet and social media usage seems to effect and change the very nature of the brain itself.

Technical progress, markedly in the area of transport and communications, has made human life more comfortable but also more keyed up, at times even frantic. Cities are almost always noisy, silence is rarely to be found in them because there is always a lingering background noise, in some areas even at night. In the recent decades, moreover, the development of the media has spread and extended a phenomenon that had already been outlined in the 1960s: virtuality that risks getting the upper hand over reality. Unbeknown to them, people are increasingly becoming immersed in a virtual dimension because of the audiovisual messages that accompany their life from morning to night.

The youngest, who were already born into this condition, seem to want to fill every empty moment with music and images, as for fear of feeling this very emptiness. This is a trend that has always existed, especially among the young and in the more developed urban contexts but today it has reached a level such as to give rise to talk about anthropological mutation. Some people are no longer capable of remaining for long periods in silence and solitude.

Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Carthusian Monks, Carthusian monastery of St. Bruno, Lamezia Terme, Italy, Oct. 11, 2011

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