I can barely contain my excitement and the speed with which my mind is churning. Months ago I snagged a book out of impulse and curiosity called “Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now” by Douglas Rushkoff. Recently, I disengaged from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in a desperate attempt to regain control of my time spent on technology and of my thoughts. Rather than being in the present, I was distracted from it constantly jumping to look at the next, most updated feed.
“But it has not actually brought us into greater awareness of what is going on around us. We are not approaching some Zen state of an infinite moment, completely at one with our surroundings, connected to others, and aware of ourselves on any fundamental level. Rather, we tend to exist in a distracted present, where forces on the periphery are magnified and those immediately before us are ignored… Instead of finding a foothold in the here and now, we end up reacting to the ever-present assault of simultaneous impulses and commands” (page 4).
Talk about a punch to the gut in the best way. I have been craving to read a sharp analysis on the implications of how our society is currently set up. Living in San Francisco gives me the privilege/burden of seeing some of the biggest names in the tech industry heighten this current reality.
I started the book yesterday. I had been staring at my computer for hours and was itching to try to get some sun. My therapist once told me that I might have SAD so, in light of recent bad days, I am trying to test this theory out. Knowing that if I went without anything in hand I would most likely leave 15 minutes later, I snagged this book. I quickly breezed through 25 pages trying to slow my reading down so I could pick up each word and each sentence. Honestly, this has been one of very few books to keep me so engaged since college although I did only graduate 6 or so months ago.
What resonates with me in this book is exactly what resonated with me in books like The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and To Save Everything, Click Here by Evgeny Morozov. We need to reflect on what our society is now shaped by and we need to change our relationship with technology. In The Shallows, I found myself nodding my head thinking about how terrible my attention span is. It is a struggle to read when your phone is constantly vibrating and the TV is on and music is playing and and and and…. To Save Everything, Click Here showed me the deep moral problems with thinking that technology will fix everything (Note: Morozov actually criticizes Carr’s analysis in this book!). Present Shock ties this all together by showing how the individual changes to our brain and the moral implications of our technology are coming to a head in our society today.
Mind you, I am only 50 pages in but I would be reading right now if I didn’t have to work! The mindset that drew me to get a cup of coffee, turn off my phone, and read this morning is the same mindset that makes me love handwritten letters with friends. I don’t miss Facebook. I don’t miss Twitter. I don’t miss Instagram. What I do miss are hugs from friends and hearing their voices. I miss passing a rugby ball on one of UNC’s fields. I miss sneaking off to a park late at night/early in the morning in highschool with friends to go talk about life, love, and how terrible homework is. I miss the tangible feeling of being with friends and the intangible emotions of the same. Unfortunately, newsfeeds and over-filtered pictures of friends leave me feeling stuck wanting a hug and left with emotions that aren’t quite the same as missing someone. How can you miss someone when all you are seeing is an over-filtered and particularly chosen version with a caption re-written 10 times?
Anyway, everyone needs to read this book. Until everyone does, I will be vigorously writing about it.