Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell and the Internet Inferno
I’ve seen several references to various social media apps and the Seven Deadly Sins, but as I consider the darkness that seems to breed in social media circles — from teen bullying on Snapchat and Instagram, to Twitter trolls threatening female reporters in India with rape and abuse, to child pornography on the Dark Web and the children who suffer miserably, literally living in hell for predators’ public pleasure — Dante’s Inferno comes to mind, and how this ancient story from 1300 might actually describe our reality right now, as we enter the Information Age of our human development.
Perhaps this stage of humanity had to take a technological twist, one Dante couldn’t have imagined in his time, but one that was destined in our evolution none-the-less. For no other invention has ever truly united human minds together. The Internet is where we are able to peer into the human psyche and together decide, shall we go on to Heaven, or will we devolve into the sadistic beasts depicted in Dante’s work? Our online behavior effects the whole, we can’t create true connection as long as the beast continues to dominate the conversations. If we want a truly liberated Internet-of-Things, then we will need to face the demons inside of us, and overcome them with the help of some trusty advisers.
Let’s go back in time then, and see if the great Dante Alighieri can shed some light on the baseness of the online world and how we can transform it into the ideal that sparked the birth of the Internet, as well as every social media application that now serves to bring us together.
And what exactly is the noble spark that underlies the Internet?
Inferno begins with Dante on a quest to be reunited with Beatrice, his true love. This then, is the ultimate goal of our human experience. Love. Not necessarily romantic love, but connection in the truest sense. Behind all of our impulses is the desire for connection with others such as family, lovers, community. We want to belong to a group. I think this is what we’re searching for when we go online, the promise of connection, of finding our tribe. Hence, we have created the Internet as a forum to do so. We want to find one another on a deeper level, one that knows no physical bounds.