Thursday, June 23, 2016

As the cost of living soars and the standards our parents enjoyed disappear in the rearview, we are working harder and longer – whatever the promises of technology and efficiency. Our spare time, our emotional energy, seems whittled to a finer point than ever. Whether or not we suffer from anxiety, we all have less time than we once did; we are all offloading our emotional and intellectual labor onto devices, and Facebook has become a priceless tool to make sure we do not lose anyone in the transition.

As Leigh points out, "There’s this idea that technology has made us distractible, and that it’s ruining our relationships with other people."  But it's not about the technology, really -- it never has been.  It's a lifestyle thing.

I approach this issue from a rather odd vantage point, being someone who has always been good at being "connected", maintaining a constant online presence, and in general buying into online interaction.  Yet, also as someone who routinely makes the time to write handwritten letters to friends and is super interested in calligraphy (though I suck at it still).

Yes, technology has changed things, and it has served as a sort of "enabler" for some behaviors that I'd say I don't really appreciate.  But the capability has always been there, even in the past.  Years ago Facebook was already a big thing, and that was =after= everyone had just gotten over the wave of blogging on Xanga, LiveJournal, and whathaveyou, and THAT itself was after everyone had gotten accustomed to IM as a medium of communication.  When we were all just kids in high school who went home and did homework everyday, with no cars and no real "freedom" to just go out and meet with each other, instant messaging became the de-facto way of "hanging out" after we went home from school.

And you know what?  It was AWESOME.  I'd give a lot to be back in that era, with those AIM windows that contained so, so much human connection.  It seems silly, but I was genuinely connected with my friends through those chat windows -- each with its own little quirky incongruities, like how I used a monospaced font with a black background that ended up looking something like this.  Yes...those were the days.  And to be perfectly honest, it wasn't just us high school kids either -- after my first year at college I got an internship where I met a wonderful coworker who was so kind as to indulge me in late-night conversations over IM, and we fostered a meaningful relationship that I haven't forgotten to this day.  I can only hope that kids nowadays are using SMS or Line or whatever-the-heck-kids-use-nowadays to have the same sort of meaningful connections.  Because our generation sure as heck isn't anymore.

I can't say for sure what exactly changed.  Maybe we all grew up, and in the mundane throes of "adult life" we lost our excitement for talking about all of those silly things -- about stupid video game in-jokes, about crushes and infatuations, about slogging through homework, about marching band rehearsals.  Maybe we learned to be more self-conscious, and no longer desired to share each others' thoughts so openly.  Maybe instant messaging just wasn't "hip" anymore, and the herd moved on, like it always does.  Like it moved on from blogging, like it moved on from MySpace.  Maybe nothing really changed at all except I'm doing a terrible job of being a friend and making conversation (haha, I hope not, but I won't rule it out).

But it was never about the technology.

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