Friday, November 24, 2023

#328 / Separate Worlds


That's Dhatboitre, pictured. He is a TikTok "personality." I am reflecting the assessment of The Wall Street Journal in providing this label. Dhatboitre "posts prank, lip sync and comedy videos for his 1.1 million TikTok followers." Again, I am relying on the reporting of The Wall Street Journal in providing this information. The Journal article from which I gleaned this information was titled, "Parents Are Baffled By the Celebrities Their Kids Love." Here's an excerpt: 

Kialia Pinellas was mystified when her teenage daughter started acting like a giddy groupie while they were shopping at a mall outside Orlando, Fla. 
“She was just going crazy,” says Pinellas. “I have never seen her react that way.” 
It turned out her 14-year-old daughter Khaloni Crowell had recognized a clothing-store clerk as “Dhatboiitre,” a young TikTok personality who posts prank, lip sync and comedy videos for his 1.1 million followers. 
Pinellas, who is 42, isn’t among them. Though a regular at the shop, she had no idea she had been buying sports jerseys from a social-media star until then. 
An entertainment gulf has long existed between adults and their children. Stars and shows that attract kids can repel parents. It happened with Mötley Crüe, “Beavis and Butt-Head,” “South Park”—even Elvis. 
Today, though, the way we consume media has widened that chasm. Not long ago, a single TV blasted from the living room. Parents didn’t always enjoy what their children watched, but at least they were exposed to it. 
Generations now inhabit separate digital worlds, consuming separate servings of entertainment. Parents often still favor TV and movies while younger viewers skew toward social media and the “content creators that keep it all moving,” said a Deloitte report (emphasis added).

I would like to point out that it isn't, actually, accurate to say that "generations" now occupy "separate digital worlds." That statement is underinclusive. In fact, when any one of us is "online," we are present in a "different place" from other people who may be sitting right next to us, or who may be passing us on the street, or who may be students in a class we teach, or fellow residents of the same city or neighborhood. 

When we see someone looking into a smartphone (or when they are home, looking into a computer screen, or a tablet screen), it is always a fair to ask, "Where are you?"

I teach classes at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Generally, my classes have somewhere between twenty to fifty students. I do not allow students to use cellphones, or laptops, or tablets, or earbuds in class. That is because I want them to be "in class" during the time set aside for our classroom meetings. 

The fact is, our access to "The Internet" has dissolved and eliminated the "common world" that has always existed when we are physically together in the same place, at the same time. As long as electronic devices are in use, that is no longer true.

In my opinion, the implications of this have yet to be fully appreciated. Our "Pledge of Allegience" claims that Americans are "One Nation, Under God." Is that "one nation" claim true, however? Not if we are all located in different places - and that's really where most of us are, most of the time, nowadays. The Pledge has always been aspirational, but there was enough truth to it that we could recite it, together, without either laughter or derision. Now? We need to understand the nature of our contemporary reality. I am trying to figure out, personally, how we can survive, divided as we are by the addictive technology that now rules our hours and days.

Separate worlds? 

The promise of "The Internet" was that it would bring us together, make clear to everyone that we are, in fact, related to everyone else on Earth. That was the big idea that made early technology advocates so hopeful, that propelled them onward, and that brought us to today. 

I am not sure what we can or should do about it, but we need to start thinking about the the fact that we live, now, in a divided, splintered, discontinuous reality that separates us from one another, instead of bringing us together. This is true, as The Wall Street Journal points out, even within families. But it's true in a much more profound and general way, as well. Splintered realities, with each of us living in "Separate Worlds" - that's where we find ourselves now. 

Have you ever chanted, in the street: "The people, united, will never be defeated"?

I count that chant as reflecting a profound truth. And that means we have a major problem on our hands! This blog posting is not the first time I've mentioned it:

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