What are we all DOING? Checking our computers and phones with Pavlovian urgency, while cursing the fact that we can’t get away from our desks or phones or tasks.
I sat down to write today and soon felt a vague anxiety. Nothing had been bugging me a few minutes before. I traced the feeling to a sense of being overwhelmed that emails just come in faster than I can get them out. It’s the myth of Sisyphus for a modern age — roll the boulder up the hill; it rolls down and crushes you.
But I don’t want to write the classic, “We should all disconnect and dig in the dirt and smell the roses” piece, because that’s just one side of it. I love technology. We’ve created this site as a way to curate great things and connect people (yes, ideally offline, but with the information supplied online). I’ve met so many amazing people already, with our SPACIOUS venture just a few months old. And most of the relationships start in my inbox. So I am gratefully connected.
Yet sometimes when I feel feverish with the pace of all this communication, John Freeman’s The Tyranny of Email is just what the doctor ordered. I’d been going around singing “Doctor, doctor, give me the news” (Thanks, Robert Palmer), trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Feeling hopelessly behind yet struggling with FOMO.
And Freeman’s book was a great diagnostic tool: I’m wired. Literally. That’s my problem. Or wirelessly over-attached to my computer, technically. I’ll share a few quotes so you can get the feel, but please read the book. I want the whole world to read it and subscribe to the suggestions in Freeman’s “manifesto for a slow communication movement.” Before we spin off the planet.
A few nuggets:
- “Their keyboard has become a messaging conveyor belt – -and there is no break time.”
- “…most of us have a water cooler inside our computer surrounded by five thousand people, all talking at once.”
- “We are approaching a world in which every letter we write home, every love poem we read, every condolence note, political petition, and letter of apology we type is framed by a penumbra of automobile ads, perfume pitches, entreaties to enter online gambling emporiums.”
- “Technology amplifies human instincts and desires, but it must obey the laws of nature if it is to sustain human life, not destroy it. And so we must remember we are part of nature, too. We may be dependent on machines, but we operate like them at our peril. A diving suit can sustain a swift ascent from 3,000 meters below sea level; the human body inside it cannot. A man who works past the point of exhaustion in a mine will collapse; a machine can keep on digging.”
- “We are at the beginning, not the end, of this problem.”
Do you feel it yourself? Have you lifted your eyes beyond your laptop lately? Are you jumpy? Are you singing the old song, “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off?” I was too. Freeman’s book helped. And while reading it, I got to go offline.
And now I’m back to tell you about it. And to suggest you share your media woes with me. Maybe you’re at Ebeneezer’s like I am. If so, let’s talk. Laptop closing time.