Technology and Voyeurism

One marked social effect of changing technology has been to distort the human experience of observing one another. It is now easier than ever to peek into people’s private lives and to experience a wide range of emotions and obtain a good deal of pleasure or entertainment while doing so. One effect of this is to increase the sense of superficiality that permeates modern life. We are all being surveilled all the time by not just corporations and the state, but by each other, and we project ourselves accordingly.

We may, before a first date (if we didn’t find our potential partner online), Google someone to perform a brief background check. This manifestation of our voyeurism can be potentially destructive but is perhaps the least dangerous aspect of this modern process. Voyeurism tends to cause fetishism. People are reduced to objects and ownership of these objects can be conferred on the viewer. This is why dating sites and apps like Tinder are problematic for society. They reduce our empathy and our view of people as unique and deserving.

Outside of personal relationships there is the baser parts of life that are now in full consciousness for the first time in human history. The modern era has shown an ever increasing incongruity between the public acceptance of sex and violence and the private ability of people to view it. Pornography and filmed violence permeate the internet. The discord between public and private life, and the increased scope of public life, are also damaging to society. A society that looks on death and sex as taboo in public, but as mundane in private, is bound to develop a shame complex, as well as dehumanizing the participants and victims of sex and violence respectively.

One example that vindicates the mass-development of shame, which is caused by the public revelation of private embarrassment, is the proliferation of cringe-comedy in documentary or first-person style. It enables a catharsis for people to experience vicariously, and voyeuristically, other people’s shame.

The long-term effects of shame and dehumanization cannot be good for the public health of society, and it may be a primary cause of increased anxiety, depression, and mental illness, as well as feeding sexual deviancy.

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