In modern society, defined by McLuhan as a "global village with an enlarged dimension and with a new form of community-based society," we are increasingly seeing a tribalization process: the birth of multiple small communities and great difficulties in emotional relationships of any kind.
The network is sharpening social problems. Henceforth, personal relationships are affected. As always, the problem is not represented by the medium itself but instead by personal use.
The first casualty is the youth, the digital natives, people almost born with smartphones already in hand and who are increasingly struggling to unplug. In the ever-growing connected world, always on, friendships are lost, acquaintances are found, and it is difficult to have real exchanges which are not mediated by technology.
Times change and so do the ways of relating to one another. The beginning, the growth and then the spasmodic diffusion of the always connected instruments are rapidly changing the way we live and think, bringing out a relational unease that has never existed before. It is creating a revolution that is almost assuming the outlines of an involution, at least with regard to human relationships.
The phenomenon of "ghosting:" the new trend of breaking an emotional bond
It happens ever more that someone disappears suddenly – gone into nothingness without leaving behind any trace. It is the shut down of a friendship or a love by cutting off all contact, sometimes followed by blocking. "Ghosting" literally means "becoming a ghost," no longer being traceable.
A way just like any other to break off a relationship by not answering calls, messages, and chats, without taking the responsibility to justify the causes or give any explanation for that choice.
Nothing new compared to the past: if you closed a relationship in some way one simply disappeared, as to avoid contact of any kind. The problem, however, is putting up with the end of a relationship. Closing a relationship cannot be reduced to switching off digital communications.
Behind such attitudes, in reality, self-centered and immature people are hiding, unable to take on responsibility or face situations that may provoke negative emotions.
The one who gets it the worst is the "ghosting victim" who experiences the break of relationships as a psychological torture, resulting in abandonment syndrome. Obviously, then, self-esteem is affected.
This practice is experienced as a real social rejection that activates the neural pathways of physical pain in the brain. It has a negative impact that can affect real and virtual social relationships. Let us not forget that it is very important to stay in touch with others for our own sake, since our brain has a social monitoring system (SSM) that controls the environment to understand how to react to situations that involve others. The practice of ghosting deprives us of signals and therefore may have devastating effect on people, most importantly young people who need the peer group to understand themselves and the surrounding world.
Vamping: a generation of vampires
Socializing on the Web even at night has become a habit, a real trend that removes young people from one another and even more… People stay awake at night to send messages and tweets, chat, and post comments or photos. This phenomenon, Vamping, has spread and takes its name from the idea that only vampires are active at night.
The always on generation, constantly connected, never stopping – even at night – with consequential problems of concentration during the day and difficulty falling asleep during the hours dedicated to sleep.
Just think that the first smartphone is already being handled at a very young age, 98% of kids between the ages of 14 and 19 own their own smartphone. Their life is increasingly linked to interactive screens and they show serious difficulties in dealing with the surrounding world, their peers, and previous generations.
Hikikomori: the imprisonment of young people in the home
Another phenomenon that is the result of our times is Hikikomori, a Japanese term that means "to stay on the sidelines."
This concerns children between 14 and 25 who do not study or work and instead decide to close themselves off from the world as a recluse. It is a phenomenon that, starting with Japan, concerns more and more every day the corporations with developed economies. Familyandmedia had already explored this issue by talking about how many teenagers voluntarily choose to remain reclosed and glued to computer screens.
The latest statistics show thousands of cases, and in in continuous increase: a real host of inmates who needs help.
Self-excluded subjects have no friends and spend most of the day in their room. They have very few social interactions except through the Net and social networks. Even on the network, their profiles are fictitious; they live out a double life. It is a dangerous level of isolation that often results in depression.
Phubbing: control practically becomes obsession
Last but not least, this phenomenon is certainly the most widespread and an everyday practice that both the young and old take on.
Phubbing is about being on your device while talking to someone. It is a phenomenon that is putting a strain on human relationships, because it is useless to emphasize how much concentration and attention is lost by being on your smartphone. Usually the conversations do not even come to an end because the converser will lose patience and decide not to speak anymore or, the other in turn checks his smartphone, never bringing the conversation to a close.
Worrying? Yes.. We are losing the ability to relate ourselves to others face to face and even parents are often forced to send messages via Whatsapp to their children to get their attention, even if they are less than a meter away.
A digital culture is missing
Ghosting, vamping, hikikomori, phubbing, here are the new and disconcerting ways of social relation. But is there a solution? There are no magic recipes or quick and cheap solutions. What is important to do is work to build a new digital culture, to build a healthy, free, conscious and balanced relationship with the technological tools that have now become real artificial extensions of our body. We must therefore work on the formation of one’s character in light of new forms of presenting the perennial challenge: virtues remaining the same but exercised in different contexts and in ways that are constantly being renewed.