The Mechanism of Change


My grandparents led a life different from their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Nevertheless, all our lives have undeniable similarities too. The way technology touched the last generations, obviously in different forms and degrees, is one of them.


But at the same time we all fit into the same technological pocket, that same technology is admittedly compartmenting us. I can say, for instance, that my grandparents were radio people; my parents, telephone and television people; my own generation is somewhere between TV and computer; my children definitively belong to a computer generation and I can only guess what kind of people my grandchildren would one day be.


I don’t like to see people defined by technological gadgets, but I have to recognize that they are changing the way we live and relate with others. Recently, an article underlining some passages of James Harkin’s book “The Dangerous Idea that’s Changing How We Live and Who We Are” captivated me. Accordingly to the columnist, this is the book to read if we want to understand the way we are communicating today. A now book. Maybe I should read it or maybe I should take the columnist words for granted when he writes that such a contemporaneous book will soon be past.


Harkin is not against networking (“two, four, six, eight, Facebook must disintegrate”), but someone worried with the way people are communicating. The author points out that the sense of social common action is being substituted by the option of staying at home “hopping from one blog to another, having heated and often inspiring debates with people they cannot see or hear, who could be next door or in the Outer Hebrides.”


“The danger is that when you spend all your time deciphering what other people are up to, you never get around to doing something original on your own…” writes Harkin.


And he adds: “People have always been nosy and voyeuristic, but now you can be nosy, not just about the person next door, but about millions of people around the world…”


This capacity (along with the consequent distortion of the power hierarchy) is the dangerous idea that’s changing our lives. It’s a dangerous idea because it only happens in your head and “that’s not always the best place to live”.


We all have reasons to be or not to be somewhere. Personally I decided to open a Facebook account only if I could find 3 or 4 friends I won’t mind to keep in touch with. Unfortunately, it seems the handful of friends that I have are still enjoying television lives. I decided against and so did the columnist I’ve been quoting. For different reasons, we reached the same conclusion. He stopped since he read about a Newsweek journalist who opened a Facebook account for a potato. Twenty-four hours later that same potato had already 23 friends. In fact, makes one wonder.