It is difficult during times of self-isolation or curfews to fully realize our social nature: links that were already missing during normal times have been largely amputated in almost a year. Boredom has never been so frequent, and behavior has changed significantly. Indeed, there is an intensification of digital entertainment. Gerald Bronner, who recently published Cognitive apocalypse, indicates that brain time has never been longer than it is today, but we use most of that time for distraction, especially with screens. What is the difference between culture and entertainment? Does time spent in front of screens, which increases during confinement, reflect alienation? Can entertainment be a source of true joy? While the latter fills the dead time as free time, a return to the already old temptation, diagnosed from Pascal to Guy Debord.
Entertainment on all screens
Over the past year, we have seen the evolution of attitudes towards art. Now it is impossible to go to theater halls or open exhibition galleries and other museums. Physical distancing is also being forced on works of art, and there is no need to repeat this too long, culture is an industry that has been hit very hard by the health crisis. Deprived of large gatherings, entertainment, study, training are carried out individually in front of screens. Online games, Netflix, visits to virtual museums with Google Arts… any means are good for accessing entertainment, arts and culture. New proposals appear on social networks, adapted to the situation. However, is this enough? When we know to what extent culture, the art world, concerts are vectors of social connections, exchanges, living together, it seems difficult to satisfy a need with this type of media that has become essential since the 1960s: to have fun, to vibrate together, share, enjoy moments of relaxation outside of periods of work or study.
Screen culture has become the norm, but sharing content online is no longer enough. Depression, stress, burnout and all these diseases of the century are on the rise: the CoviPrev study conducted by the French Public Health Service from March to November 2020 shows a significant increase in depressive and anxiety disorders in the general population. If before we could think of boredom as nothing more than a distant memory with an abundance of distractions announced by the screen era, then this is not so. We finally understand that the social, from the Latin Social, “companion”, “comrade” are more than vital, and this boredom, as well as anxiety disorders, are quite real. If the links can then be approved by social networks, they are more difficult to formalize during a quarantine or curfew. Social communication is evolving towards covid-compatible forms: aperitif Skype, Zoom conferences, video dating. However, loneliness has never been so widespread. It is from this loneliness that we still paradoxically run through screens, as the author writes. The world outside your headMatthew Crawford, for whom a person who does not maintain this isolation is doomed to constantly keep his eyes on his smartphone, looking in technology for a good remedy for the evils of our time.
The inaction imposed on the population since March 2020 has led to certain changes in our behavior and increased frustration. Entertainment, which is literally understood as the need to “create a diversion” (from lat. entertained) will become a new dependency. This insatiable search for distraction, learning, playing, sharing information online or elsewhere finds its full source in modern times, where leisure is increasingly associated with entertainment.
Conclusion is more or less well lived depending on the people, and entertainment comes to fill the boredom that may take up residence in existences. It is interesting to return to the idea of Guy Debord, who emphasizes that modern Western society is driven by the need for “showy” goods. The philosopher Blaise Pascal once relied on the idea that in order to take on his own suffering, a person will find tricks to turn away from the truth of his finiteness. While the philosopher is more in favor of a person using their ability to discern to accept their weakness, entertainment could be a good way to “escape” from this condition. For Pascal, amusement refers to a futile human activity in search of gratification, fame, or material gain: escape. “People, not being able to cure death, misfortune, ignorance, decided not to think about it in order to make themselves happy. Entertainment then takes the form of a desperate search for solace in the face of difficulty, which turns into catharsis, “cleansing from passions”, as a means of suppressing indignation and outbreaks of rebellion. Entertainment is that activity that allows us to forget and partly ignore what worries us. He looks away from the concrete difficulties of existence.
Another more detrimental use of entertainment is the occupation of free time and the illusion of being active. Faced with constant guilt over idleness, entertainment fills the void at the expense of truly “unproductive” moments, the benefits of which, however, are emphasized by scientific research. According to Guy Debord, society has become a spectacle that absorbs itself. Society is built on the accumulation of theatrical scenes that shape our performances and replace reality, in short, life itself. With the advent of the consumer society, we have moved from existence to possession. Then, for it to appear, with the advent of the screen society and new ways of communicating in social networks. The need to produce or consume more and more, in particular virtual and digital goods, is invading the daily lives of Internet users, who are exposed to hundreds of advertisements every day. The spectacle is everywhere, invading the social space with its diverse products, as far as possible, hiding the unity of its ideological origin: capitalism. Time is a commodity, and social facts, the actions of individuals, unconsciously become transactions. If we remain within this utilitarian vision, then there is always the question of profit; This is evidenced by the very modern injunction to “make the most of” every activity.
Happiness and entertainment: a grand illusion?
The gift, the gratuitousness of action, tends to fade behind this ideology because capitalism needs clear, if illusory, goals, especially when it comes to responding to the insatiable search for “happiness.” Does happiness bring a time of boredom, leisure, if this is a time of consumption, not exchange? It’s interesting to remember that going from website to website also partially shapes people’s particular vision of reality, and that the correlation between depression and time spent on social media is now scientifically proven.
Moreover, in a dematerialized digital world, we also point to the problem of the attention economy. The idea, named so since the 1990s, is to keep users as long as possible, and often on sites or apps that benefit the tech giants, Google, Facebook, Amazon… But above all, you must remain smiling, happy, to show that life is not so bad, and for the descendants of generations who have known a war, or even two, it could be worse! The existential anxiety caused by this unprecedented pandemic crisis is mixed with an overabundance of information on the same topic. Deaths are counted daily. You can follow the development of the situation in real time, like a reality show. Then it becomes impossible to escape. Why then strive for happiness when everything seems to strive for chaos? Why do you want to “turn away” from your own affects and show a positive image of yourself?
According to Eva Illows, the sociologist behind the works happy cracy as well as emotional goods“A society that has made happiness its main value molds people in such a way that they begin to turn away from the collective, from caring for others and from the common interest.” Thus, in times of this “happycracy”, a dictatorship of happiness, of which the social network Instagram is one of the most concrete illustrations, escapism has never been more necessary. Screens are eating up our free time and worse, making everyone become creators of non-stop entertainment, whether they have their own audience or not, mobile is a way to show yourself for a few seconds and lose a few seconds of attention to yours. native. Then the person, in his desire to create, offers to watch several performances lasting several minutes. A time of boredom necessarily becomes a time of consumption or production of digital goods. Then the organization of society is complete and whole in the form of alienation from the masses by the masses themselves, where the desire for creativity is directed by the growing entertainment industry.
If it then becomes necessary to rethink the ethics of using screens, this will not be enough. Man is a social animal. People need to see each other, talk, share experience, teach each other. They want a real one. Then you have to choose between joining happy cracy allowing ourselves to be lulled into ideas of personal development, distracting ourselves from what seems negative to us through the consumption of various entertainments, or accepting our affects, turning them into resources and using our understanding better to finally get out of the illusory and energy-intensive capitalist game. In short, capitalize on an ethic that will be built on a collective scale to provide no basis for the prophecies of a cognitive apocalypse (Bronner). The acceptance of boredom, the slowing down of time, as necessary factors in the evolution of society would be the first step towards a natural individual or collective authenticity, malleable, independent of any productive ideology. To restore time for oneself, for others, to affirm gratuitousness, disinterestedness, in order to reunite with a more commensurate temporality. Contemplation and wonder, finally, as new keys to progress.
For further :
Blaise Pascal, thoughts1670.
Guy Debord, Entertainment Society1967
Eva Illuz, happy cracy2018.
Gerald Bronner, Cognitive apocalypse2020.