“The medium is the message.” What you use to interact with the world changes the way you see the world. Every lens is a tinted lens. – Michael Harris, The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection
I just finished reading The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection. Its author, Michael Harris, highlights the fact that those of us born before 1985 are the last generation to know first-hand what it was like before the Internet and all of the technological accoutrements that we digital immigrants have learned to both love and silently loath. We are the ones who recognize that in gaining access to information and constant connection with others, we’ve lost moments of silence and the effort required for authentic communication. While the book preaches at times, Harris has done his research talking with psychologists, philosophers, neurologists and tech gurus as well as reading up on history and the ways past technological innovations impacted the societies of the time. It’s a fascinating read and hit on many of the mixed feelings I have about technology and, as Harris calls it, “the end of absence and the loss of lack.”
Every revolution in communication technology – from papyrus to the printing press to Twitter – is as much an opportunity to be drawn away from something as it is to be drawn toward something. – Michael Harris, The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection
I also just finished a two month hiatus from Facebook (I made the exceptions of posting links to two blog posts and posting about a professional project I did). At first, I didn’t know what to do with myself when I had a few minutes to spare. However would I fill the time? What would I do not knowing what so-and-so was eating for lunch or how whodywho was feeling about being stuck in traffic? It turns out, I didn’t die and can fill those precious minutes in more meaningful ways.
The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind. – Albert Einstein
One of the the premises of Harris’s book is that in the loss of solitude, we’re losing the ability to daydream, to think, to create. Those moments are now filled with checking email, checking in and surfing the web. I can remember a childhood filled with daydreams, playing make-believe and reading books – lots and lots of books. It was also filled with lots of arts and crafts – my mom kept an entire closet filled with every possible item one could imagine making an art project from.
Granted, there were also moments of boredom. My parents refused to get cable until the end of my middle school years, and even then my siblings and I were limited on how much television we were allowed to watch. We were left to find ways to fill that boredom – ways that didn’t involve digital technology.
solitude: a state or situation in which you are alone usually because you want to be – Merriam-Webster
I recently left my full-time job. Two of my reasons for leaving were 1) to get back to what I loved about my career and, 2) to slow down and live. My next big work project doesn’t begin for another three weeks, so I’ve got a lot of free-time on my hands. That time could be filled with hours of Candy Crush and watching every episode of every television show I’ve missed in the last year. Instead, in keeping with my New Year’s intentions, for the month of January I’m planning to investigate what creative stuff can come out of the solitude I’ll have the chance to experience at home alone.
To fully investigate the solitude I’m embracing, for the month of January I will:
- Reduce thoughtless checking of email, checking it only up to three times per day (a suggestion from Harris’s book);
- Create something each week (a blogpost, a rehabbed piece of furniture, a new recipe, etc.);
- Read two books (one that I’m starting today is Solitude: A Return to the Self);
- Keep an “idea journal” that includes thoughts, quotes, pictures, lists, etc. to act on in later months;
- Limit television to 10 hours per week (I’m not a big t.v. watcher so it will likely be less);
- Continue limiting use of Facebook to only when I’m posting links myself on no more than once a day.