When talking about the digital in the past, people usually envisioned an infinite space where collective knowledge would be gathered. The internet would bring people together, as this knowledge could, and would, be shared with everyone around the world. Best case scenario? The world would become a shared place, no more borders, no more misunderstandings, all because everyone could share everything with everyone.
Living in a digital era right now, this utopian reality is far from true. Sharing does not mean understanding, as different opinions still clash today. But among discussions of what’s right or wrong, the digital is still steadily evolving. The idea that the digital should only be useful has long been transcended. It’s a medium to have fun and meet others for not only diplomatic but also with sociable purposes. The digital has more and more become entangled in our lives, but the question is, how far are we going?
Media and Suicide
Whereas the digital, as stated before, is supposed to be a place of fun and socializing, this is not always the case anymore. People are becoming so much invested in the digital, that the lines between real and fake are getting blurred.
November 2012: A 14-year-old Russian boy suicides because his favorite character died in a show he was watching
September 2018: A 12-year-old girl, and two boys of 15 and 16 years old are only three examples of the 130 child suicides in the past 6 months in Russia, all connected with challenge groups online
August 2021: A 13-year-old Indian boy suicides after spending, and losing, almost 500 euros of his parents’ money in a game
These are only a few examples of how digital happenings had terrible consequences in the real world.
I mentioned that the digital is more and more becoming entangled in our lives, but maybe it’s more correct to just state that, at this point, our digital and real lives are almost one. Influences from the digital seem to be causing so much grief, loss, and disturbing thoughts, that one can no longer think of continuing in the real-life either.
Marrying the Digital
From suicide off to a more peaceful, yet bizarre, event. In 2018, 35-year-old Akihiko Kondo married the love of his life Hatsune Miku. At the first glance, this does not seem to be such a strange thing, was it not that Hatsune Miku is in fact, not a real person.
Hatsune Miku was released in August 2007 as the first Japanese VOCALOID to be both developed and distributed by Crypton Future Media, Inc. A VOCALOID is a piece of software used to model a human singing voice. Such a VOCALOID is usually designed as a cute anime character.
Akihiko Kondo ‘met’ Hatsune Miku at a low point in his life, believing he would never find a marriage partner. Her music helped him reconnect with his life and work, and so Kondo decided that she was the one. The two married before the eyes of 39 friends and relatives (Kondo’s parents never showed up). He now owns a Gatebox device with a flickering, holographic Miku floating inside. It can manage simple greetings and switch lights on and off but has no sense of self and desires.
Thousands of people sign up for marriage registration with virtual characters every year, and this is certainly not limited to only Japan. While this in itself is not a huge issue, there are certain details that are a bit more disturbing. For example, Hatsune Miku is meant to represent a 16-year-old girl. If digital marriages become part of the ‘new normal’, shouldn’t there be a rule against this?
What will the Future bring?
Whereas the future is still unknown terrain, these past examples do give an indication of how our real and digital lives are becoming one already. From here on, we can only guess what the future brings.
Will we shift our entire main existence to the digital like Ready Player One? Will we be able to just lie down and transport our consciousness to an online world like Sword Art Online?
Who knows? I can only say that I’m slightly worried yet excited at the same time.
Lindgren, Simon. Digital Media & Society. London: SAGE, 2017.
Wells, H.G. World Brain: The Brain Organization of the Modern World. 1938.