A Balanced View of Time in the Network Society: Positive Life Attitude and the Discovery of Slowness

In the extremely competitive and depressed society, the essay aims to suggest that individuals can be happy with positive life attitudes to live a better life through a balanced view of time. Even though the network society has somehow caused an infinite competition in the society; thus individuals are psychologically stressed and depressed easily, the network society has also enabled us to have a new perspective of time and life through various media contents. That is, a key to happiness in the information society is all up to us. Thus, in this essay, how the balanced view of time and the discovery of slowness are related is going to be explained, and the essay will be concluded introducing some methods to live slowly and happily.

Information Society and Infinite Competition

The ‘information society’ refers to the current society where everyone gathers information through media technology such as a mobile phone, TV, radio, and the Internet. The form of information can be examined as imaginable subjects which are ideas and concepts. These types of information have been digitalised and computerised with new tools (i.e. media technology) and have enabled the whole world to be connected, to the extent, the world can be described as the networked society. Be specific, work tasks, leisure pursuits, and personal interests in daily life have become more connected with people on social media in the information society (Hassan 2008).    

Accordingly, the network effect has been inevitable in the neoliberal global economy, which is equivalent to the concept of networked information society requiring connectedness in society. The positive network effect can be explained in relation to rights to freedom of expression. Individuals can express themselves through personal blogs or social networking websites, and this means that the expression of the individual has been realised in the productive and efficient level (Hassan 2008).     

There has been the negative effect existed at the same time, which includes speed effect that communications and economies speed up in the network society. This effect has been created in the society where inter-local and global competition has been inevitable due to neoliberalism. The idea has allowed productivity to be measured on the basis of values for money (Peck & Tickell 2002), and it has led to the highly competitive global economy everywhere to the extent that public and corporate policy have been also performed based on neoliberal ideologies (Beaverstock, Doel, Hubbard & Taylor 2002). Under this negative speed effect, people started to experience the feeling of being under pressure and lacking of time; that is, the feelings that we are controlled by time and running behind events (Klein 2008).

Not just about the feeling under pressure, the worse problem is that people compete with others all the time in the globalised network society. From the moment a baby is born, the baby is automatically exposed to the atmosphere encouraging a competition with his/her peers. If the peers can crawl, the baby is encouraged to crawl by his/her parents. In the developmental psychological perspective, this is a normal process to check the development status of a baby. However, any statistical data used for the purpose to measure an average action in certain age has become a factor to compete extremely with peers, to the extent, people feel unhappy or depressed. From the moment that the baby becomes a child who can study, the child is educated to compete with his/her friends to get into a good ranking university. After the child is grown to become an adult, the competition still remains till the person die. From getting a job to a marriage, our life literally is an infinite competition.

Our society, in general, does not care other people except for own family or close friends. That is, we are too busy with our own life due to the competition and stressful speed up situations repeated over and over again. This social phenomenon and psychological stress have increased the level of serious crime. In May 2016, there was a crime called “murder for no reason” in Seoul, Korea. The murderer who is the 20’s guy with a psychological disorder confessed the reason to murder a random woman is that women have ignored him (Shin, Yun & Seo 2016). His motivation for murder can be examined based on gender competition recently created in the Korean society as women have had an economic power with their jobs, as well as the social atmosphere somewhat ignorant with everything but money, so does not really care for psychological stress or psychological disorder in a serious level.

Network Society and New Perspective of Time

Once again, the electric media – telephone, radio, movies, television – has merged the whole of human society into one collective global village since the creative process of knowing has been possible through a dissemination of new media content. A positive view towards this globalised network society is to examine the whole digital phenomenon as a “democratisation” of culture, whereas a negative perspective also exists, viewing it as a “dumbing down” of culture (Carr 2010). 

In a new golden age of access and participation, a media content conveyed via media technology, representatively the Internet has influenced how we think and act. It is hard to say that the media product itself is good or bad, but its influence on shaping our value would be judged either good or bad. That is to say, technology is just a tool, but content made by technology shapes who we are as individuals and as a society (Carr 2010).

Even though there have been some opinions that the Net medium and media contents are negative to distract our concentration and contemplation (Carr 2008; Anderson 2009), the positive aspect has also existed. Nowadays, there are a variety of media contents such as movie and TV series containing a philosophical deep message and idea to shape our value. The most representative example would be a movie, Interstellar, described that time is the illusional concept and does not flow (Tate 2014). Not just the form of a movie, there are TV series and music that make people think about time and life. In one Korean TV series, Oh Hae-Young, Again!, there is a quote, “time is an illusion and an idea of past, present, and future is created in human’s brain.” The main character in this drama can see the particular future about himself, and a neuropsychologist tells him that he may be able to see his future, if it is the strong experience to him.

Tensed and Tenseless View of Time

The idea in relation to time shown in the movie and drama is somewhat equivalent to a tenseless view of time. There are two representative views with regards to time: ‘A-series’ which is a tensed view of time and ‘B-series’ which is a tenseless view of time (Sieroka 2015). The series of positions in time, which are past, present or future refers to A-series (Teichmann 1995). According to this view, things or events are either past or future now, however, the view is often inconsistent as the present exists and everything is somehow collapsed into it (Sieroka 2015). That is to say, every event is at some time past, is at some time present and is at some time future which seems not to be real (Teichmann 1995). The tensed view of time which is the concept of past, present, and future has been created in our perception for the purpose of coping with and ordering all sorts of daily life situations in brain (Sieroka 2015). 

On the other hand, physical time is in a temporal order; that is, physical events are not fundamentally past, present, or future. The events occur at different times, and they are simply related to one another by the relations ‘earlier than’ and ‘later than’, which means a B-series (Teichmann 1995; Sieroka 2015). Tenseless descriptions are used to explain physical and physiological states, not perceptual states because physical objects and events (i.e. electrons and neutrons) do not act, which means they do not have intentions, wheres perceivers do (Sieroka 2015).

Perceptual contents are somehow inevitable in our history and dispositions to act, which involve an intentionality of perception referencing to the past and future. Thus, every kind of theory which describes actions such as history or sociology and the philosophy of perception has to assume an A-series of events (Sieroka 2015). So, both a tenseless physical time order and a tensed perceptual time order are somehow necessary in our life.

Determinism and Life Attitude

Based on the new perspective (i.e. tenseless view of time) regarding time suggested above, it can be naturally related to determinism that every event is decided or already happened as future is our perceptual concept. This idea can be argued with a concept of free will and life attitude/action. The libertarian conception of free will refers to “the capacity to initiate causes without being caused to do so” (cited in Evans 2013, p. 640), that is to say, the capacity to control everything ultimately. The Deterministic Concept of Human Action (DCA) refers to actions that human beings make without ultimate control, meaning that if the brain operates deterministically, then our future is all fixed in advance (Evans 2013). According to a psychologist, Strawson (cited in Evans 2013), the free will debate is a debate of reactive attitudes whether endorsing a deterministic conception of human action (DCA) would disable to make social life possible and meaningful through the attitudes. Thus, the debate of free will include two opposing positions: optimism (i.e. utopianism) and pessimism (i.e. dystopianism).

A psychologist who had the optimistic view of the DCA, Roskies’ study showed that people were actually blameless in a deterministic universe than in an indeterministic universe (cited in Evans 2013). In specific, the DCA supports gay rights issues as people believe that homosexuality is a feature of our biology not caused by one’s internal will. Generally, it is known by psychologists that a public trend focusing on dispositional traits encourages more caring reactions than focusing on random external factors (cited in Evans 2013). 

On the contrary, there are known to be more negative (i.e., dystopianistic) aspects of the DCA when it comes to individuals’ life attitude. It is because the consequences of the DCA could be psychologically harming to people. Denying responsibility is one of the common pessimistic attitudes of the DCA that people could easily show (Evans 2013). People can possibly make any external excuses for their actions. The worry is that people would feel an incapability of initiating actions or engaging in the actions. Additionally, Baumeister, Masicampo, and Dewall found that individuals primed with the DCA showed a decline in offering an assistance and an increase in aggression, therefore, they are more likely to feel helpless and unmotivated to act pro-socially (cited in Evans 2013).

Mostly importantly, determinism and fatalism are slightly different; the view that the casual history and the physical laws determine physical events such as human actions is determinism, and it entails the idea that what we do contributes to the outcome of our life-path (Evans 2013). Wheres, fatalism is the view relevant to eventuality referring to particular events are fated to happen, and what we do does not affect certain life-paths based on this view (Evans 2013).

Therefore, based on the real meaning of determinism which is different from fatalism, it is possible that an individual can endorse both ideas of the DCA and free will of agents at the same time. The extreme view of determinism such as fatalism denies the existence of free will, which can constitute a threat to some people’s religious beliefs and moral values. In addition, it could decrease an efficacy of individuals’ action that could happen from an unconscious motivation to avoid empathic concern (Evans 2013). 

In specific, based on determinism, a character an individual has at a given time has been fixed by the action of an individual, causal history, and the laws of nature; it does not mean that the character is unchangeably fixed, thus our characters are malleable. Even though our characters and futures are determined, we may not know what our futures look like. That is to say, our minds can be trained and our willpower can be increased towards the characters we hope to be in the context of determinism (Evans 2013).

The same idea of determinism goes with looking at our future, again, one possible risk is to be confused with the view of fatalism which inspires people to have an attitude that there is nothing they can do to change the outcome of events. Therefore, one thing is clear here that the present state of the world is not an indication of how the future must be, whether the present is admirable or corrupt. The future depends on what we do.   

Balanced View of Time and Discovery of Slowness 

If individuals do not have an extreme view in relation to either tensed or tenseless view of time, the individuals can live a better life. With the extreme tensed view, people can become too obsessed with their past or future. That is, they are nervous with negative thoughts created in brain that they have not experienced yet. For the past case, people could possibly be obsessed with past events created also in brain (i.e. memory) and feel depressed about it. The network society as a whole has somewhat negatively influenced on our perception with the tensed view. It is because competitions have been increased in the neoliberal globalised society; in this context, an age, which was also created based on the concept of A-series for the purpose of convenience in life, has become a new factor for human beings to feel more stressed in the relationship with time. At the same time, the extreme tenseless view can make people to believe fatalism rather than determinism, and it can affect people to have a negative life attitude.

One of the delusional thoughts based on capitalist civilisation that people could easily have is “the love of work, the furious passion for work, pushed even to the exhaustion of the vital force of the individual and his progeny” (Lafargue 1883, p. 9). We probably have a right to be lazy. With the balanced view of time and the right to be lazy, people could have a better life. But how?

Mikics (2013) suggested that living a better life through reading better, reading more slowly. There is a quiet movement such as slow cooking, slow thinking, and slow reading giving us a message that faster is not always better. Whether we like it or not, the Internet has made us to waste hours of time every day with distractions and being frustrated by what happens online. It also negatively affected children’s ability to work independently on challenging tasks and attention spans. Even our decision-making power has been gone from us as everything happens so quickly. Slow reading as the antidote to such distractions can be the virtue of more meditative social trends in the computer-driven world.

Mikics (2013) emphasised that knowing how to read and improving the way we read will allow us to reveal new prospects and experiences without any obsession with speed. Not skimming and rapid, informational reading, slow reading is the only way to truly experience a book and read intelligently. That is, we would know how to make choices every moment through slow reading knowing logics in the book; how the book hangs together and how the author has done her or his work.     

Additionally, a video about an experience that a previous neurologist has shared suggested that a slow-motion style of inline skating that doubles as meditation has changed his life. The video describes that “a charming and light-hearted vision of what can happen when you actually do what you want to” (Izenberg & Micheli 2013).   

Conclusion

An individual has a right to choose his/her perspective, attitude, and behaviour. Some people choose not to marry in a certain age, even though society forcibly make people to do. Some people could be failed to get promoted among peers. Individuals have their different time perspectives and life attitudes. Therefore, none of them can live the same life. The solution is simple. Do what you want to do with having a balanced view of time. That is the only way that we can live a better life. One more thing is that we all should recognise the difference between being distracted and being happily absorbed. In conclusion, it is all up to us that can make a “democratisation” of culture, not a “dumbing down” of culture with the digital phenomenon.   

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