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Are We All Getting More Sensitive, Touchy-Feely?

News in that a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has designed a jacket which gives you a squeeze when somebody ‘likes’ you on social media.

Melissa Kit Chow has created this piece of kit to ‘allow us to feel the warmth, support or love that we feel when we receive hugs’.

The ‘Like-a-Hug’ jacket is a large out-coat with air pockets which are linked to the wearer’s smartphone. The pockets inflate when they receive a signal that a page has been liked!
Apparently, hugs can be sent back by simply squeezing and deflating the pockets.

One can only wonder what the jacket would do if the ‘like’ or the ‘friend’ was no such thing, but was merely using it to get to you. Could it be made to strangle or suffocate the wearer?

Touchy-Feely Society

It’s all part of contemporary culture that says it’s fine for men to cry. Or even to weep copiously and dramatically in any emotional situation. Or even just any circumstance.

The same values that say nowadays people must hug on first meeting, if not actually kiss on both cheeks. Call complete strangers by their first names without invitation and adopt a degree of general intimacy from the off.

Is it because modern social intercourse is so often via digital transmission that people are keen to cling to the last vestiges of actual human contact?

There is a view that we are actually more sensitive nowadays and relate better to touching and getting in touch with our emotions. However, that is not easily verifiable. What is more certain is that people get more prone top crying, more sentimental perhaps, as they get older.

One blogger hiding behind the handle mistyhorizon2003 admitted that she cries over the silliest things (she is 38) such as The Secret Millionaire who helps deserving people, the death of a character in a soap, a sob story on The X Factor or even Extreme Makeover Home Edition.

She is unsure if it is down to more genuine compassion for others, hormones or gratitude when she is shown an unexpected kindness. She wonders if she empathises with people in difficulty more in later years. She doesn’t have an answer but says she thinks that ‘I like myself better for being this way as it proves to me I do have feelings that matter and I care for everyone and everything’. Mmmm.

Bitching in the World of the Luvvies

Meanwhile in the fierce world of writers, those of us who ply for hire with the written and/or spoken word are showing signs of extreme sensitivity.

One of the judges in the Man Booker Prize hit out at online reviews and wikis and blogs for ‘killing the art of literary criticism’.

Sir Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement in real life, argued that ‘discerning readers’ should pay attention only to established critics and not ‘internet blogs written by amateurs’. He said that online comment replaces ‘argued literary criticism’ that allows for books to be compared, put in context and be analysed.

He may, rather like King Canute failing to hold back the waves of the sea, be whistling in the dark on this one. In the chaotic democracy of the web, users are hardly likely to stop expressing opinions, mashing the work of others, satirising and expressing opinions, however misguided, misleading or plain wrong they may be.

Yes, the Man Booker judges have the task of identifying through traditional literary criticism what people will still want to read in 20 years’ time and there is a place for that, just as there is for erudite and learned critics in quality newspapers.

But there is also a big place for the rough edges, honest, inventive, no-nonsense approaches of people in the streets and on their keyboards when faced with what they see as intellectual pomposity. Many believe that online reviews are written by, according to writer Jon Stock, ‘educated lay readers sharing views for the benefit of potential book buyers.’

That’s surely the sensible line to take. To support a view that online contributions are mainly mindless, uneducated chatter is where many people who dabble in new technology miss the point. Twitter, for instance, is not a promotional opportunity per se. It’s a great big, ramshackle, cacophony of a conversation.

So join ours on MBF Blogs. Say something about this.

Linked articles:

Mistyhorizon2003, Why Do We Become More Emotional and Cry More As We Get Older?

Is the Final Chapter of the Printed Book Beginning? 23 January 2012

Wikis Help Keep the Net Open, 17 January 2012

Will Your Digital Afterlife Make a Good Novel After You Are Dead? 10 September 2012

Holiday Reading Matters: Paper or Electronic? 6 August 2012

Image: Miss O’Crazy