FWIW: Speaking of life before the Internet…

The thing about a class like this is there is always something coming up in the news and wherever else that’s relevant or interesting (at least to me) to what we’re doing in this class. I will post about these occasionally in the category of “For What It’s Worth.” I’m not necessarily expecting you to read and comment on these things (though of course you can), but like I said, they’re interesting.

So here’s an example, “What it feels like to be the last generation to remember life before the internet” is a little article/quasi-promo/review piece about a new book out by someone named Michael Harris that is very much pondering the generations (those of use born before 1985 apparently) who knew life before the Internet. I thought it very much fit in with what we’ve been talking about so I’m sharing. FWIW.

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One Response to FWIW: Speaking of life before the Internet…

  1. Marianne says:

    This was an interesting article that does tie in nicely with our discussions. The way he described the significance of being the last of the “Before” generation was very intuitive.
    The parts I related to and found most interesting were the following:

    “Harris…grew up in a…world…with limited channels of communication, fewer forms of entertainment, and less public scrutiny of quotidian actions or fleeting thoughts. It was neither better nor worse than the world we live in today. Like technology, it just was.”

    ”’If we’re the last people in history to know life before the internet, we are also the only ones who will ever speak, as it were, both languages. We are the only fluent translators of Before and After.’”

    …”means being able to notice things like the reduction of interactions to numbers, and how that translates into quantifications of human worth. …’has to do with this notion of online accountability…noticing that you actually count seems to be related to a sense of self-worth…One of the things that concerns me about a media diet that is overly online, is that we lose the ability to decide for ourselves what we think about who we are.’”

    I think this is a great way to describe what the other articles have been talking about. People who are getting depressed and lonely based on their online life; people who freely publicize things they never would if it were face-to-face.
    He describes these people as having a “penchant for online confessionals,” and the dangers as “the perils of public opinion, and technology’s impact on everything from sex to memories to attention spans.”

    Then when he was describing how he checks his email first thing in the morning, I thought that was very insightful, too, and I realized that I have gotten to that place.

    “’When you wake up, you have this gift of a blank brain. You could fill it with anything. But for most of us, we have this kind of panic. Instead of wondering what should I do, we wonder what did I miss. It’s almost like our unconsciousness is a kind of failure and we can’t believe we’ve been offline for eight hours,’ he says. It is habits like this that are insidious, not the internet itself. It is a personal thing.”
    I never thought about the mornings like that but doing so really gives you a new appreciation for putting off technology use as long as possible after waking up.

    Apparently his book described the month he spent “off the grid” and it reminded me of my week in the Adirondacks this past summer with very limited cell phone reception and a very weak wifi connection. I highly recommend it–I felt it was very freeing and had a hard time getting used to it for several days.

    He describes, “…’it’s the break itself that’s the thing. It’s the break—that is, the questioning—that snaps us out of the spell, that can convince us that it was a spell in the first place’…
    He described the experience “…’an occasional break can be helpful’ … ‘I think what you get is a richer interior light and the ability to see yourself in a critical light, living online. Because if you’re in the middle of something you can never see it properly’.”

    I think he was spot-on with his description and why it makes a difference to “unplug.”

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