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The changing times have witnessed a change in the tools of socialization, with the internet, through the various forms of electronic media, emerging as the most powerful tool for socialization. This is evident by the increase in the social networking sites, online dating sites, faster communication facilitated by electronic mails and social blog spots (Macedo 147). This is in contrary with the traditional print media, whereby there are minimal avenues for exposure of personal information. In addition, electronic media has a global audience, increasing the scope of socialization and defying the socio-cultural boundaries of socialization. People usually post daily information like hobbies, social preferences and career information without taking into account the consequences of this modern portrait of reality. In the novel, Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart states that the present world is lacking standards or stability, whereby “a single partner can determine a dating prospect’s “hotness” and sustainability with the click of a button…” This indicates the realm of the present day connectivity on the social lives of people. The novel explores the effects of today’s culture and the following generations on the value of humanity. Shteyngart’s novel is a love story focusing on Lenny, a middle-aged Russian immigrant, who ignores all the modern technologies and holds on print media (Theroux no pag.). Eunice is the opposite of Lenny and is technologically inept, as characterized by her online correspondence through online shopping. The fundamental argument is that exposure to the media devalues the values held by individuals. For example, the values on sexuality and cultures. The primary purpose of this essay is to evaluate the consequences of personal online exposure and assert its value.
Increased personal online exposure, characterized by electronic communication and data collecting devices, serves to undermine the value in real human interaction. Lenny Abramov, the protagonist in the novel feels uncomfortable with the not-too-distant future wherein he feels that his survival is limited. For instance, there is the lack of genuine human interaction; instead, people are classified using their credit and sexuality ratings. In addition, his preference for books over text scanning faces a threat by the onset of the new culture that places emphasis on electronic media, instead of the traditional print media (Ron no pag.). Such a culture sets Lenny apart from the rest of the world. Lenny is a perfect indicator that new culture facilitated by electronic communication serves to devalue human culture. Lenny is placed in the context of a more illiterate world than our own, where children use “explosive nouns, overblown verbs, and beautifully bungled prepositions”. Lenny fears that the new culture makes ones’ private identity to be transparent like the onionskin jeans that are increasingly becoming common. In the light of this view, it is apparent that personal online exposure tends to reduce the gaps found in age and ethnicity; however, it tends to compromise the private identity of an individual, which is central towards individual values. The fundamental argument is that the new culture demeans human value by embracing societal phenomena instead of the complexities of real people. For instance, Lenny’s boss is youth-obsessed, his friends (Noah and Amy) are media crazed, and his father and Eunice’s father are motivated primarily through shame and status (Chayko 89).
The new culture also serves to degrade the true value of sexuality through commercialization, whereby people are exposed to political commentaries showing gay hosts disrupt their observations to engage in a live sex. The novel argues that the United Nations does not exist, and its place has been taken by the United Nations Retail Corridor, which comprises of online stores like “JuicyPussy”, which engage in the sale of transparent onionskin jeans and nipple-less brassieres. The realm of sexuality is portrayed by Eunice, who is contrasted by her peers of her generation; Gary states, “Unlike of others of her generation, she was not completely steeped into pornography…” It is evident that the actual realm of sexuality and the instinct of sexuality stems from inside, and places emphasis on the need for warmth rather than debasement. The present day culture, through electronic media, has devalued and debased sex. The inference from this observation is that people are overly exposed to sex in this new culture. The reality is that sex is prevalent in radio, television and movies rated above PG-12 (Al-Shawaf no pag.). Sex is something that should be sacred and done out of utter love for another person, yet it has been degraded by the society to appear casual and sometimes meaningless. The present society uses sex for instant satisfaction and not intimacy. The exposure to media and pornography, through electronic media pornography, has devalued people’s view towards sex. The new culture perceives sex as meaningless; however, its true meaning should include should incorporate spiritual, mental and physical connectedness, and sex should be done intentionally rather than spontaneous (Chayko 145).
In the novel, social media socialization has been used to degrade the true value of real socialization. The novel depicts a future America that hopelessly depends on the next generation of social media technology, which is depicted by the omnipresent äppärat, which is a post-iPhone device placed on the neck and offers every information on the people and world around someone. The device provides the “hotness” rating of every person, including their comparative attractiveness with people of a similar gender (Ron no pag.). The device also discloses the background of people, education and their net worth. The novel’s depiction of social media and technology indicates that the personal information of every individual is forever disposed in the social space. For instance, Lenny founds himself listed publicly on a website showing the 101 individuals deserving pity. In addition, Lenny’s aging parents can view their son’s “hotness ratings” via the internet. Further still, Lenny is overly condemned for holding onto reading books, which every person scorns because of their old smell and staleness. The novel questions human dependence of social media and technology and the author expresses grief over diminishing vocabularies with the increased use of social media. An inference from this observation is that the new culture imposed by the electronic media has led to individuals deviating from seeking solitude and people are increasingly losing their real identities to the characters portrayed in the world of social media. Shteyngart sees little value in the dependence of social media and prefers the use of real verbal communication between real people rather than socially constructed identities via the internet (Macedo 189).
In conclusion, Super Sad Love Story managed to highlight the demeaning consequences of personal online exposure advocated by the new culture that is overly reliant on electronic communication. The first consequence is that personal online exposure undermines the value in real human interaction, wherein there is a thin gap between private identity and public identity. The new culture demeans human value by embracing societal phenomena instead of the complexities of real people. The second consequence of the new culture is that it degrades the actual value of sexuality through commercialization. Sex is something that should be consecrated and done out of sheer love for another person, yet it has been degraded by the society to appear casual and sometimes meaningless. The third consequence is that increased reliance on social media and technology for socialization undermines the real true value of human interaction and socialization.