Bifurcated modalities

There is a youngish man who sits at the bus stop several days a week staring at his phone and watching something for what amounts to an 8-hour work day. I was at the grocery store the other day and heard the cashier talking about going home to stream and making a little money doing it. Both of these random experiences made me think about how I experience the world day-to-day and how it evolves rapidly.

I mean to explain the ways people experience the same society in dramatically different ways. This stratification has always existed between rich and poor, or because of people’s gender. The information age, coupled with free trade, has changed the landscape to the point where there’s a bit of a monoculture that permeates everyday life. People in far-flung places are culturally aware of what’s happening in dominant markets, whereas 30 years ago, the information flow was slower, less fragmented, and more localized.

In local markets, this manifests in ways where people can operate substrate without anyone knowing that’s a way to live at all. For someone with an office job who lives in the suburbs today and who might be over 40, they have no idea there are people younger than them who experience the world in very different ways than they did or even their parents did.

People growing up before the information age had relatively similar experiences, despite the improvements in nutrition technology and social advances. But in the information age, there are no common shows” that bind people because it’s possible to never listen to the radio and find your music through alternative sources. TV shows are streaming, and live sporting events are mostly on cable, leaving out people who don’t have access to those services or can’t get them from elsewhere.

It’s possible to do what you once did, but it’s harder to find community when people walk around with earbuds, and it’s harder to initiate a conversation about common topics because these things were always difficult, but it’s even harder now.

We need to be thinking not only about how these bifurcated modalities affect us but also how they impact our ability to develop empathy about how other people—our neighbors, fellow travelers, and others—experience the world.

July 30, 2023