This “inanition syndrome” can make the internet a civil battleground: are we doomed?

Today social tensions have reached a make-or-break level: are digital and social media the next victim to be forced into fighting across political, religious and even gender lines — only to be deprived of social and personal value? What can we do to stop this “inanition syndrome”?

A new term has come up to the general attention: “inanition”. But it’s not only a matter of linguistics care.

For Merriam-Webster inanition means:

the quality or state of being empty, the exhausted condition that results from lack of food and water, the absence or loss of social, moral, or intellectual vitality or vigor.

That’s inanition. One word to describe several states of distressed life, starting from lack of food and water to scale up to the loss of “vitality”. It’s like a degenerative process. Like water through a drain, inanition spins down the energy of life.

This term can be used to describe the “zeitgeist”, i.e. the spirit of our times, in particular in relation to politics under Trump. High level of domestic social conflicts, stemming from economics to ideology and religion. But also abroad: the uncertain rol of eAmerica in the world, the continuous attacks from islamic terrorism, the geopolitica crises in Asia, from the South China Sea dispute to the seeminlgy-unstoppable nuclear threat of North Korea. All that is exhausting the public sphere, the circulation of free thought, putting at risk civil rights and testing the resistance of democratic systems under pressure by anti-democratic, anti-establishment movements. Meanwhile, intolerance and radicalism are coming back.

This is inanition. Now, why does just one word menace our life?

My question is simple: will this wave of inanition, sooner or later, infect also the digital communication, the marketing, social media … as well as the main sources of content: online streaming, books, movies, arts?

Think of “The Handmaid’s Tale”: I don’t think that under the Obama presidency this tv-series would have the same impact it has now under Trump. Not to mention the revival of Orwell and other dystopian authors.

I do not mean the digital communication well be “trumperized” (did I coin a new term for Merriam-Webster?!). I mean something much more critical: the spread of an attitude or mentality based on polarizing conflicts, partisanship loyalties, divisive sociality, communal violence: “we” versus “the others”, “me” against “my enemy”, whether it’s an individual identity or a religion or a political membership — or even a gender!

There’s more to add: all these phenomena cannot be related only to the rise of Trump and Trump-politics. Maybe we have entered another unstable era of both internal and global relations. Why not? The question is really hard but it’s nonetheless worth putting it now.

How will it take to infect, for example, the social media and transforming them into a ring? I mean: it’s not only a problem of trolls, haters, fake news. It’s the risk of reflecting in the social media the “inanition syndrome”: feeling exhausted, surrounded by hostile forces, under constant attack from external, unknown enemies. It’s like feeling on the verge of a generational change: what you considered eternal or a matter of fact (i.e. polyarchal democracy, man universal rights, open society, the research of personal happiness as a a fundamental right) now turns into something insecure, under attack, ready to change for the worse, the unexpected, the uncontrollable.

Take a look at the tragedy of Manchester. This attack is terribly representative. Terrorists want to attack the young: they are attacking the digital-born generation. They try to create an atmosphere of public distrust that immediately reflects on the social media. The resulting hating crimes only make the wounds even deeper.

People feel lonely on social media: it’s not so hard to believe that at a certain point people will start sharing on Facebook their grief, anxiety and rage. This is the worst-case scenario for spreading a cultural virus.

What we can really do, each of us, in our daily life, is to consider the ways we can protect ourselves from the trap of this poisonous mindset.

More real-life meetings to come to terms with this reality? More authoritative, well-informed content to read and share? More sources of information? A new tools for public discussion, like the one-time blogs? More listening of the youngest and most suffering people? New digital opportunities for social and political discussion, participation?

Only my suggestions. Any better idea is welcome!
Thank you for your attention, really.

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