Compare 1997 and 2017. It’s ugly. If you’re a human American, you’re more likely to live alone or with people who aren’t related to you than you were in 1997. You’re less likely to belong to a church, a bowling league, or a civic association. You’re less likely to subscribe to periodicals you like. You’re more likely to report a shorter attention span. You’re far more likely to have a problem with addiction, whether opioids, porn, or just the flickering screen.
Why do we feel like we’re losing? Because the age of being connected to the information superhighway came at the same time so many of us disconnected from everything that is humane, gentle, or life-giving. All those beautiful things in life ask for our attention and reward it. But we’re misers at heart, and all the internet asks for is your distraction. Seems cheaper. So we give it. And it rewards us too, in its own way.
I’d recommend the Luddite solution. But I probably can’t convince anyone to smash their screens for good. Not even myself. Individual acts of rebellion might be cathartic but not useful. We probably can’t change the way the world feels to us now. The night sky that seemed to transmit nothing to us but sympathy back in 1997 is now conveying this ugly, boring, contemptible “content” to your device at this very moment. It is hiding all of that anxiety beneath just enough funny videos of people being injured, or pictures of someone’s baby or cat, or pleasant time lapses of cooking that you keep coming back to it. If you gave up your device, your friends would still approach you with theirs.
“Did you see this?” they ask. “Do I want to?” you respond with an expectant smile. But internally your mind repeats it with a sigh. “No, really, do I want to?”