In Blind Faith, Ben Elton writes a world “post-flood” (due to global warming) in which London is over-crowded and religion, the “Big Love”, has taken over control of a society in which serial monogamy is the one true way, and everyone must celebrate their godliness with a constant stream of blogging and vidding of their lives. It’s mandatory to post your “cherry pop” and every sexual encounter you have after that – the glory of the cooch. Obesity is standard, because eating is part of the glory. Dress is minimal, and the protagonist Stafford stumbles toward work in a crush of flabby asses and swaying fake breasts (because these too are glory to go and Diana-an angel in the new world order).
There are videos on KFC buckets, and in every home and on every surface in public transport – a constant stream of interaction where your neighbour can watch you and you can watch your neighbour. Cooch and all. Reading, particularly anything by the heretic Darwin is strictly forbidden. As is child inoculations, which leads to huge infant mortality rates, and that is what propels the story forward.
Stafford falls in love with a woman in his office. Because she keeps things private. She covers herself (he’s never seen her belly button). In short, she has dignity in a world where dignity is dangerous because it implies thinking for oneself.
A quick perusal of the twittersphere and the social networks certainly reveals some fuel for Elton’s imaginings. There is a whole world of people out there who think nothing of telling you about their sex lives, their personal relationship and/or dancing for your viewing pleasure in lingerie (and that’s not even the porn).
It’s been a choice for me to not be too “intimate” here, to not name names that aren’t aware of it, to not tell you all of the details of my true private feelings or my daily loves or heartbreaks. I wince away from this perpetual need of some to reveal everything in full colour and multiple formats. At its worst, there is not much left that doesn’t look like an endless stream of fake happiness, shallow performance and the embarrassing embodiment of the “entitled” generation.
I’ve read some bloggers recently who have stopped writing altogether. Others who have made declarations that their blogs will no longer be quite so personal, or raw. It’s quite telling that many of them came to this decision based on the number of ranting comments they’ve received when they have been open, or the cyberfriends who get offended by a perceived slight. Mostly because for every human thing you do (like wish you could drug your child that won’t go to sleep) brings out hate like you wouldn’t believe. Often cloaked in religion or “family values” – what in Elton’s world becomes the hypocritical theocracy that abhors reason.
A dip in the twitterstream can feel like bathing in a fast-running stream of crap sweetened with aspartame. Who knew that 140 characters is all one needs to bare everything that people don’t really need to know? It’s not everyone, of course, but it might explain why I am still finding it hard to engage with that particular platform. That kind of stuff for me is really better among friends. Flesh friends.
Not to say there isn’t good stuff too, else I wouldn’t have a couple hundred feeds and my own domain. I follow more than I’m followed, I’m sure. Lurk way more than I comment. Enjoy some amazing writing, some different worldviews and clap my hands when a strange and wonderous link comes my way. I’m not saying don’t engage, but I think we need to always be aware of what we are giving away in that relationship.
Technology will find us. Engagement is a part of our future. But I hope that we will continue to strive for dignity.