Saturday, February 14, 2009

why Kierkegaard would have hated internet

Long absence from the blogworld again! I used to always complain (to myself) that "nothing happens in life", like Charlie Kaufmann says in Adaptation. Well, for a change, too many things are happening in life these days. Have been busy at work and many other things and for some reason I don't feel like spending too much time on the internet.

Here is a provocative article by Hubert Dreyfus disucssing why Kierkegaard would have hated internet, blogging and facebook. He writes about some of the things I have been thinking about these days. He says that internet promotes a mode of life which is free of commitments, risks and responsibilities and so is essentially meaningless and nihilistic. The same is actually applicable to the the entire public or social sphere that we live in too. We act, speak and in general conduct ourselves as if nothing is at stake, definitely nothing personal is at stake. The internet is full of information but it is always without context and "desituated". All of this makes a lot of sense to me but ultimately I also think it should be up to the individual to decide how to use internet.

Anyway, today also happens to be the valentine's day. So best wishes and just in case you happen to be in India, take care, be safe and don't get thrashed by the culture goons.

2 comments:

mandingo said...

Forgive the intrusion- I happened upon your site by accident whilst researching the movie "Shoah"- and decided to stay for a while and enjoy some of your other work.

May I take you up on one of your points in this blog?

Dreyfus 'says that internet promotes a mode of life which is free of commitments, risks and responsibilities and so is essentially meaningless and nihilistic. The same is actually applicable to the entire public or social sphere that we live in too. We act, speak and in general conduct ourselves as if nothing is at stake, definitely nothing personal is at stake'.

Interesting point. I don't know how much of this is Dreyfus, and how much you, as there are no quotation marks; you say it 'makes a lot of sense', so I have to assume you agree with him.

However, I think it might be self serving and alarmist. Please note I respond to the confines of your blog, rather than making comment on the original source material; that would be another matter, between him and me.

I have to say in terms of my own use of the Internet, everything personal is at stake.

Let me just quote you something I wrote when I first began using the Internet to make connections in much the same way I had tried to form friendships in 'real life'; it was addressed to someone clearly in a deep depression.

"When I first began searching the internet for like minds and kindred spirits, I assumed it would be a breeze. But I realized it is no easier here than in the real world. All I wanted was to find someone- some evidence that there is someone else out there who asks the same questions. And is not ashamed to admit it. Who am I? What is my purpose? Who's running this circus?? Who are all these people around me, and why can't they hear me? Why aren't they asking the same questions? Are they mad?

I would like to have confirmed to my satisfaction that it is OK to ask these questions, and it is OK to want to know more, rather than take it all on faith. And when we connect with someone, we know we are not alone, and these questions are OK. I guess it feels like an affirmation; that it is indeed worth the effort. Has to be.

Doesn't it?

My belief system tells me I am, always was, and always will be, in one form or another. And isn't that our one inalienable, irrefutable soul truth? To seek, to believe, to trust, and to define ourselves according to that which lies in our heart and soul, in the hope that we live in the fullness of our true being?

If your heart is in the right place, you are honest, then your words have weight and meaning, you are not alone and this can be the right place for you- if you truly want it to be. And if you build it with purity of spirit and noble intention, then they will come.

I will always be here if you need me..."

I note also the comment on use of Internet being free of 'commitments, risks and responsibilities and so is essentially meaningless and nihilistic'.

I question 'nihilism', in my case. You might argue that my message to the depressed person was 'narcissistic', perhaps, in that it served my purposes as much as it spoke to hers. I feel none of us do anything without agenda. But to be fair, I also feel this is counterbalanced by my sense of 'responsibility' and 'commitment' to the person I was addressing.

And there is always 'risk' associated to reaching out to someone clearly in pain.

Always.

Naturally, the comment about there being 'nothing personal at stake' mystified me. For me, there has never been anything but personal stake. That is all it has been for me- at the very foundation of my websurfing and my day to day life. Understanding the importance of my connections (or lack of) with people, understanding the importance of meeting with like minds in a common pursuit of knowledge and exchange of opinions, understanding the consequences of these connections, etc...

I have to say for me, use of the Internet has broadened my mind and consciousness enormously, to the point where I see my journeys for what they truly are; spiritual pilgrimages each time I turn on the computer, with the distinct purpose of reaching out to other souls, and to further facilitate my own personal transcendence and evolution, not only in the 'collective unconscious' of the web, but in my day to day existence- thought, word and deed. If there is indeed a difference.

Could there be any endeavour more meaningful than this?

Am I the exception rather than the rule? I would consider myself nothing short of arrogant and 'narcissistic' to believe so; the very opposite might be true. In fact, it is my hypothesis, the raisson detre that powers my search; the unshaking belief that I am indeed not alone in the way I use the technology, that Internet users are nihilistic.

Indeed, it goes to the core of my belief system; that I would rather believe the best, rather than the worst about people, even if- and especially if- I am proven wrong.

I hope you take this response to the point of 'nothing personal at stake'- which I had to challenge- in the spirit in which I intended; that of friendship and fruitful discourse.

I am pleased to note your blog emphasises the egalitarian nature of the Internet, especially when you close with saying 'all of this makes a lot of sense to me but ultimately I also think it should be up to the individual to decide how to use internet'.

I heartily agree; in fact, given some of the extreme websites I have found in my travels, as in life, I don't think we have any choice but to 'live and let live', do we??

Keep up the great work. Even though my comment might seem contrary, I simply had to respond, but for the most part I agree with your thoughts, am simply fascinated by your range of topics and broad coverage, and I look forward to visiting again, if I may...

mandingo said...

Sorry! Important ommission six paragraphs from the bottom; should read 'Internet users are NOT always nihilistic'.

Important difference...