Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Vanishing Of Civilization

     "In order for civilization to survive, man must remain civilized." The preceding words were uttered by Rod Serling over fifty years ago in the context of one of his many operatic shorts about the human condition as he saw it. Those words could not be any truer today, especially in light of the uncivilized behavior engendered by our modern technology.
     Civilization is constructed of a moral code adhered to by its citizens, not at the bludgeoning of government regulation, but out of a sense of decorum and common respect. The governor that individuals possess to mute their behavior and guide their speech away from the crass, sadly is missing from modernity as a result of the veil of anonymity afforded to us by social media. The Internet in general, and social media in particular, have provided their users with a sense of immunity for anything they may say or do.
     People will say things and show images of themselves on social media sites that they would never do otherwise. Could you imagine, for example, a teenage girl showing nude pictures of herself to a stadium full of people she does not know. But yet many young girls, and young boys, are doing exactly that and worse when they post something on social media. It has the potential to be shared with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of strangers.
    One of the tenets of civilization is a deep and abiding respect for one's fellow citizens, a respect that shields them from the darker side of our natures. But social media eliminates the need for that respect by providing a forum for the basest of our instincts to run free and wild. And almost without exception, the price paid for such ugliness is spared the individual, the full brunt of such barbarianism being absorbed by the culture with the loss of civilization.
     I shutter to think how little civilization will remain in 20 years, once a generation of children raised on a steady diet of unfettered "self-expression" through words and photos become adults. There seems to be no appetite by many modern parents to guide their children through the sewage of social media into becoming responsible participants in that medium. Many parents, when confronted with their children's online behavior, simply excuse it by saying it is just kids being kids.
     Meanwhile an entire generation grows up with narcissistic tendencies encouraged by the instant celebrity culture of social media. Children, and many adults as well, become ensconced in a cyber universe that revolves entirely around their participation in it. Far too many of our children never develop the interpersonal skills required to survive and thrive in the real brick and mortar world outside the Internet.
     It is the self-centered nature of social media that contributes to the break down in decent society and the vanishing of civilization. A culture can not remain civilized when selfishness replaces respect, and barbarism replaces decorum. Mr. Serling knew this to be true fifty years ago, long before the existence of Face Book, Twitter, or even the Internet. It is axiomatic of the human condition, whether one is considering the disposition of ancient civilizations or our own. 

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