We are witnessing various changes in thinking patterns. Over the last decade, we have witnessed an acceleration of these changes made possible by technology. What is the nature of these changes? Can they simply be grouped around a general idea towards which everyone would converge?
Changes can be observed at all levels of our societies: professional, economic, technical, aesthetic, etc. However, if we take a step back, we could have an overview around the general idea of flow.
What does this concept mean and what is it opposed to?
Flow is the idea that one prefers to consume a service rather than own a product. This is particularly true in the music or film industry: people subscribe more to an offer that gives them access to a plethoric catalogue rather than wanting to own the item in question. This trend towards consumption of flows as opposed to consumption of stock is visible in sectors as varied as they are important, such as transport (renting a vehicle rather than buying it), real estate (renting professional space for short periods with total flexibility), food (subscribing to a monthly delivery service for fresh products) etc. In other sectors, these changes are cosmetic or simply non-existent. It is noticeable that beyond consumption, people’s mentality is impacted by this ideology of flow, moreover is this not understandable given that human civilisation is that of the dominant paradigm of consumption?
Let’s try to identify some sociological or psychological changes that could be rooted in the ideology of flow.
The ideology of flow is characterised by choice, the absence of commitment which could even be associated with the idea of freedom.
The ideology of the stock, on the contrary, is linked to the idea of commitment, the feeling of possession and rootedness.
Here are some sociological observations that could be attributed (or not) to the impregnation of values from the flow society: the increase in the number of divorces, the disappearance of intergenerational ties, the extreme professional mobility or the isolation suffered by all generations.
The flow society gives us the choice, it is willingly more quantitative. However, over time, we notice that quantity implies a demand for quality because of competition. It is therefore not uncommon to observe a better customer experience of a service from the world of flows – which we will call the new world – than from the old world (e.g. VTC vs. taxi, delivery services, catering etc.). Another paradox is that the lack of commitment creates greater user loyalty. Indeed, we notice that those who can leave at any time, in fact remain more loyal because the service platforms are constantly looking out for their satisfaction.
Can this observation be transposed to the field of human relations? In a way, the answer is yes. For example, the fact that women are free to choose their husbands – as opposed to those who were obliged to accept an arranged, usually endogamic marriage – creates the need for men to develop at all levels of their being. Thus, a man should not only be a source of material security for the woman – moreover, he is often no longer a source of material security because the woman is working – but a person with the sensitivity to be able to fulfil the woman at other levels (intellectual, emotional and spiritual). This competition made possible by the existence of choice actually creates favourable conditions for finding a soul mate. Of course, we can see a corruption of this model especially when it is pleasure alone that guides the choice of people in their union. Too often couples form and break up because there is a unique search for passion. This search creates as much dissatisfaction in marriages as the pursuit of financial security alone. The increase in the number of divorces is the consequence of a hedonistic ideology that should not be confused with that of flux.
Freedom creates consensual commitment, while the absence of freedom creates forced commitment. For example, train users, although dissatisfied, still used the train because they had no alternative. The flow civilization that is still in its infancy can be a source of improvement in people’s lives if it promotes a holistic search for human needs and not only based on pleasure.