We all remember the year that Britney Spears made the video Hit Me Baby One More Time. We remember because she went from being an innocent singer to a provocative pop princess. She emerged from her young years on The Mickey Mouse Club. It shook our view of young women singers. We remember her because she showed … her midriff and society went crazy for it. Whether it was backlash from angry parents or cheers from supportive fans, there was reaction. And I don’t blame her. It put her on the map. She was popular with the younger crowd and encompassed a genre of fun and fearless; much like Madonna transformed tunes in the 80’s with her breast cones and seductive song and dance.
As Britney grew up she needed to obtain a new crowd’s popularity to keep herself on the map, she had to up the ante. I thought she did it considerably well. Now less is always more, but the marketing was strategic to shift from innocent to dangerous. And you know what, it worked.
Welcome 2014, and Miss Miley Cyrus. Now it’s not her problem that to get the same societal attention that Britney did she had to keep with the times. Midriffs were a thing of the past and in came twerking. She was aging out of Hannah Montana so her choices became leaving stardom and collecting from the Hannah monument or to continue a career. In a society that is saturating itself with bigger, better, stronger, faster…. we are eating ourselves.
Even in the days when Britney and Christina Aguilera were pop queens their lyrics still brought in sexual expression subtly and power to women’s voices in creative ways. Christina was a Genie in a Bottle and you had to rub her the right way. Take it the way you like, but wanting one last chance (hit me baby) and genies in bottles discretely sang messages. Lyrics about popping molly and Lady Gaga‘s Do What You Want with my body scream messages that make me wonder: have we lost (pardon me) our fucking minds. We are spoiling America. We are doing a very specific job of spoiling the women in America. Justin Timberlake emerged from the same early TV show as Britney and Christina. His popularity began in the boy band NSync and still continues today, but when was the last time he had to show his midriff let alone twerk to get our attention? Let me answer that for you, never.
So where did this all come from? I rented the movie Don Jon last evening. I got more than I bargained for but I don’t offend easily. So my intrigue had me watch it. I believe Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s intention when he created the film was to explore sex and porn addiction. 40 days and 40 nights explored the same kind of addiction (although it did it subtly). He created a story line that breaks the main characters porn/sex addiction by reminding him that overindulgence is bad and pornography is not real sex anymore. The character had a better connection with porn then he did having sex with his girlfriend. Step in Julianne Moore‘s character who is an older woman with a sense of humor stemmed from a sad situation. (The movie was all over the place but that is besides the point.) She sets the tone for the change. Which brings up my next point: The problem with pornography. The same thing that happen when shifting from midriff to twerking took place in the porn industry. Missionary sex began with mixing it up with a new position or two. It was scandalous for the mail man to come over to a single woman’s house, enter the house, then enter the woman. Then …. literally all hell breaks loose. In comes the threesome. Because when did having sex with one person at a time not sexually satisfy us? I will tell you why. We live in a fantasy world of expectations that literally don’t exist and they are brought to you by: the media. But we all buy into them because we are an overindulged, unsatisfied, spoiled society. Woman may feel the need to submit to the ridiculous standards.
In a society that is saturating itself with bigger, better, stronger, faster…. we are eating ourselves. I just hope it saturates itself at some point. How are we going to teach our children to be conscious in a society that is so unconscious?
This morning I was standing in line patiently waiting to order my tall soy chai when I noticed something about the people standing in line with me. The three patrons directly in front of me had their heads titled downwards as they typed away on their smart phones. I wondered what they were searching for, who they were tagging, or what they were hashtagging. Or perhaps they were pinning, playing candy crush, or reading the news. These three patrons included a business man with a tie holding a blackberry, a student with his backpack wearing a beanie hat, and a woman dressed casually with her purse tucked at her side. Then my eyes expanded past the three directly in front of me, as I scanned the rest of the Starbucks line. Nearly everyone in line was removed socially from the current environment.
Of the eleven people who stood in line waiting to order drinks seven of them were uninvolved in the social situation and environment as they entertained their anxiousness on their smart phones. I watched as only four stood strong with their heads high and devices tucked away. But then it happen, Man Down! (or should I say Woman Down!) One woman of the remaining four ordered. As she awaited her delightful drink she too reached into her purse and pulled out a device. In this moment the number moved to eight of eleven people in line that were busy bustling away on their smart device. Nearly 73 percent of the people in line were not engaging directly into the social situation that they were a part of. Not only were there no verbal conversations amongst them, but they were so engrossed with their heads down and personal agenda, that they didn’t even non-verbally communicate with smiles or looks. Are we opening up to a world where technology may be a catalyst in hindering our social development?
We need to be aware of a new social consciousness as the use of technology and smart phones rises. But what are we doing to make sure we remain and continue to become socially intelligent and socially in-tune? When was the last time you turned off your smart phone for a whole day and just allowed yourself to be engaged in all your social interactions? Try it. Your anxiousness may increase the first few times you unplug. This just goes to show us that we are actively having some kind of relationship with technology and smart phones. We live in an Anxious America. Time for a break up. Time to be more socially intelligent.
The use of technology has become an unavoidable task. We are required to utilize emails for work and blackboards as students; as workers we actively use the internet, programs, and devices for tracking. Socially we can’t get enough of Facebook, Twitter, or other social sites. Texting has become the new phone call. Landlines have come to be a thing of the very distant past. What was once private chatter has now become an appropriate status update.
If we look into how technology developed throughout the years, we can see that the gap of time gets smaller as we shoot into the future.
Television took nearly 84 years to develop into flat screens and HD. Cell phones took about 65 years to become smart phones and have the internet in our fingers. The internet was commercialized in 1995. That is 17 years for the process to become extremely socialized. The history of technology, as we can see, has a way of taking much less time to develop. Human development has not increased, sure our lives are longer, but not any more productive. We actively take longer to head towards adulthood than it took our parents. Some of the very basic social patterns have led humans farther away from development. We know that human development can be prolonged by things such as bad economic conditions. However, what else is adding to these developmental stages taking longer to complete now than they did in the past? Could technology be another catalyst?
In Erickson’s stages of development each stage has a conflict. Erickson was very aware that the cultural and social ideals were going to influence these stages. The stage of identity verses role confusion is when social relationships are beginning to take shape. We are no longer constructed inside of our family, but have a significant influence from the social relationships that we become a part of. We are impacted by the social technology and internet friends that we decide to interact with. We are becoming more and more isolated through technology. So maybe the stage in which we develop through peer social relationships and bring that into early adulthood is melting? Maybe we are socially lacking, and therefore professionally and productively lacking?
What lacks significantly in the technology driven society is listening. The act of listening summons the kind of critical thinking that has brought about some of the great movements and ideas of time. Active listening would require you to put technology down and to engage with another human being. I dare you to try it. I just told my little sister the other day, that I believe for a good 5-8 years I was more concerned with what I would say next than actively listening to anyone. As a therapist, we are taught to listen. Maybe we all need to go back to school of listening and social etiquette . I fear technology is making us anxious and isolated, causing all kinds of our relationships to fail.