Nevertheless, the stress of constant and infinite connectivity — we’re all RAM and no hard drive, all present and no history, all one-liners and no reflection — will continue to have consequences.
“Our daily schedule, dividing work time from time off, is discarded. Rather we are always on,” writes Douglas Rushkoff in “Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now” (Current), an attempt to grapple with our current predicament. “Our boss isn’t the guy in the corner office but a PDA in our pocket. Our taskmaster is depersonalized and internalized — and even more rigorous than the union busters of yesterday. There is no safe time.”
Some consequences of this permanent state of being plugged in seem bizarre: Take the drop in gum and magazine sales. Consumers waiting in line at the grocery store are ignoring the tempting racks of impulse buys that are meant to attract them while they wait. Instead, they’re checking their smartphones. Gum sales fell 5% last year. Newsstand magazine sales, which were hurt by the recession, looked like they were coming back but plummeted another 12% in just the second half of last year. Magazine companies are scrambling to find other places in the store to sell their wares. One retail analyst calls smartphones “mobile blinders.”