When, I started playing the Vice video, my roommate way dropping by to say hi and missed the first minute. He then asked me to replay it, so we watched it together. A variety of very confused looks, bursts of laughter which were more or less nervous and the statement “this was one of the most messed up things I’ve seen in my life” followed.
Even though I believe the video was made to elicit an emotional response from western viewers by explicitly focusing on the practices that are most different in Japan, observing a different perspective on this issue was interesting. It also made me question how many of the things we take for granted as actually product of a continuously evolving culture.
We can see how culture changes just by studying some of the cultural phenomena in our day to day lives. Dating and courting in today’s culture is different, much less emphasized than what it used to be in previous generations. These changes however, even if they appear self-contained, are a product of much broader societal changes. The video we’ve seen even alluded to the fact that the way intimacy and relationships have become impersonal in Japan can be somewhat attributed to less necessity for courtship due to women becoming much more independent but also due to the very powerful work culture. Commodification and other fundamental societal values can have wide-ranging impacts on the way every behavior functions in that society. It can be argued that the recent spur in “hookup culture” and dating apps are an effect of similar societal changes in the United States. However, each country (and really, each individual) will evolve a different way of interacting based on their unique cultural makeup.
Another major theme of this week’s blog post was technology, and how we can use it to constantly be connected to friends and how, perhaps, the same technology is making us feel lonely by making relationships shallow. I believe that technology in and of itself does not influence the way relationships evolve. Rather, it enables us to act on values that are already present. For example, a month ago Tinder just turned, according to Wikipedia, two years old. The app itself is certainly not a testament to technological innovation. The capability to design apps like Tinder was there many years before. However, it was the demand created by changing cultural norms that ushered in Tinder’s success.