Modern technology has a liberating effect in that it enables us to gain more control over our daily lives and frees us from the structures of traditional societies and nature. However, this also entails a radical break with the patterns and rhythms to which man is – biologically and culturally – attuned. Consequently, something might be lost with the increasing technologization and digitization of our living worlds and daily lives.
Modern technological innovations are considered signs of progress: they help man liberate himself from the shackles of nature and break open the small world of traditional societies to the global village: it becomes easier to move to new places (e.g. taking a car or plane instead of walking), acquire food (e.g. from a ready-to-take supermarket instead of hunting), or make new friends according to one’s preferences in digital worlds. However, by doing so, traditional patterns and structures that have long functioned as anchor points are disappearing.Natural and traditional rhythms guide our daily lives, like our food patterns (when we eat), sleeping cycle (when we sleep and wake), or division of the week into “week to work” and “week-end to rest” (and contemplate, in religious contexts). They also organize a large part of our whole walk of life, such as our working career and places where we live, or our place, duties and rights in society. These rhythms serve a practical purpose. For example, obeying our sleeping rhythm (circadian rhythm) is healthy, as is eating our three meals of the day regularly. Furthermore, a daily life that has specific rhythms (working days and hours, specific times where to meet and talk to people) help many people in structuring their lives. By breaking these patterns, a paradoxical situation emerges: modern technology both liberates us from traditional patterns and rhythms but creates new problems and dependencies at the same time. For example, although it has become easier to live and hop jobs from place to place, loneliness and stress and burnout are on the rise. And while it has become very easy to communicate, social media doesn’t seem to make us any happier about our social lives. Although technology has always had this paradoxical character – providing liberation and new dependencies at the same time – digital technologies accelerate this trend, causing the traditional rhythms that once governed our lives to become less important and guiding. There are three general reactions to loss of our traditional rhythms. The first is to embrace them or even magnify these the liberating aspect of (digital) technology, because there are still too many constrictive structures by which human live is bounded. Digital technology allows us to break free from repressive structures that once dominated humans´ lives, thus unleashing profound social and political changes to realize man’s full potential. This stance brings together strange bedfellows, such as Neo-Marxism, ultra-right-wing capitalism and accelerationism. A second reaction is a rejection or a return to traditional or even pre-modern lives. According to this (Romantic) stance, man should subjugate himself to his natural, traditional and religious rhythms, as modernity and modern technology corrupt the good life. This position is unpopular in most advanced and most Western countries, but a much more widely supported stance in countries that are in the process of modernization. A last stance is to embrace the technological and digital modern world while acknowledging the importance of traditional and biological rhythms in our daily lives. In this way, modern technology is actively embedded in traditional structures and ways of life.