By Stacey Kaliabakos
As a junior at the College of the Holy Cross, I have been able to take a number of courses in which I have discussed humanity’s relationship with nature. During my freshman year I was enrolled in a seminar course called Disenchantment and Alienation. In this class we talked about how modern society has been marked by rationalizing the disenchantment of the world. We read the works of philosophers like Max Weber, Karl Marx, and Henry David Thoreau to gain insight into the ways in which our world has been sapped of its mysterious qualities and natural richness. Over the course of the year we grappled with the most influential philosophical theories of the alienated state of modern life and were able to relate when considering our own disenchanted lives in the context of some of today’s most pressing existential and social issues. After completing this seminar I have become even more aware of the devastating effect technology in particular has had on our relationships with nature, and that it is one of the biggest root causes of our disenchantment with not just the natural world, but with the people around us as well.
I began horseback riding when I was in eighth grade. Back then, you could consider me one of those textbook “horse girl” types, equipped with a stereotypical Live, Love, Ride t-shirt and cowgirl boots. However, horseback riding was a huge passion of mine and taught me more lessons than just proper form while riding: understanding responsibility to others and the importance of nature and the outdoors to one’s mental and physical wellbeing provided a sense of connectedness. I have a distinct memory of one day at the barn; three horses got loose from their pastures, and chaos broke out. Somehow, these horses had escaped and decided to run out of the barn into the parking lot, which led to a very busy road. The front gate had been left open that day because the owner of the barn was receiving hay shipments. I envisioned the horses running into the street to their demise and causing a horrific car crash, so I quickly jumped into action, hoping to stop a terrible event in its tracks. My parents and the ethics of my sport had instilled in me a sense of responsibility to always respond to someone or something in need immediately and carefully, so I instantly secured the gate while calling for others to help wrangle the horses.
During the years I spent immersed in nature at the barn and in horse-related activities I was disconnected from technology but fully connected to the world around me. As of late, I find myself truly questioning the effects of computers, smartphones, social media, and other technologies on our innate abilities to connect with each other as humans. I have seen news stories and read articles about people standing idly by while witnessing someone suffer an accident, a health emergency, or a violent assault, not intervening but merely recording the incident in real time on their phones. I find this disconnect from reality and humanity absolutely alarming. Recently, I read that a woman was harassed and subsequently raped on a SEPTA train outside of Philadelphia over the course of several train stops without any intervention or help from the other passengers. In fact, at least two people took a video of the attack. Her assault ended when a traffic officer entered the train and physically pulled the assailant off of the woman. It is undeniable that more than enough people were present to have easily subdued the perpetrator. Were all these people so fearful for their own safety that they chose not to act? Were those filming the crime voyeurs? Or did they just think that documenting this heinous act would somehow help? Either way, I am sickened that this violent incident occurred in front of so many people without civilian response.
I sincerely believe that social media use has skewed interpersonal relationships in life. Young people are so focused on how many “friends” they have and the “likes” on their posts rather than having deep conversations and relationships with the people who are right in front of them. This increasing disconnect leads to the aforementioned apathy and lack of humanity displayed in the train incident. It’s time for society to address this problem before our ability to empathize and show compassion for others is irreparably damaged or lost for good. This New Year, my resolution is to immerse myself in nature and human connections rather than digital platforms and media. I hope WestView’s readers consider taking on this challenge as well.
Anastasia “Stacey” Kaliabakos is a junior at the College of the Holy Cross. She is a classics and philosophy double major and is in the college’s honors program. On campus, Anastasia is editor-in-chief of the Holy Cross annual classics journal, Parnassus, an opinions editor for The Spire, treasurer of the Classics Honors Society, Eta Sigma Phi, and a staff writer for The Fenwick Review. Anastasia has contributed to WestView News since 2018.