David Levy On the Agony Of Going Offline

David Levy, in “The Useless Agony of Going Offline“:

(He went offline for 72 hours over the new year’s long weekend. Productivity ensued.)

I didn’t miss my smartphone, or the goofy watch I own that vibrates when I receive an e-mail and lets me send text messages by speaking into it. I didn’t miss Twitter’s little heart-shaped icons. I missed learning about new things.

During the world’s longest weekend, it became clear to me that, when I’m using my phone or surfing the Internet, I am almost always learning something. I’m using Google to find out what types of plastic bottles are the worst for human health, or determining the home town of a certain actor, or looking up some N.B.A. player’s college stats. I’m trying to find out how many people work at Tesla, or getting the address for that brunch place, or checking out how in the world Sacramento came to be the capital of California.

What I’m learning may not always be of great social value, but I’m at least gaining some new knowledge—by using devices in ways that, sure, also distract me from maintaining a singular focus on any one thing.

I struggle with this (as I’m sure everyone does). “Screen time.” On the one hand, I’m shocked at how much time I spend with a magic internet device in my hand. On the other, I’m amazed at how much I read, and on such an incredible variety of topics. Pretty much instantaneous access to any current information, from pretty much anywhere on Earth. Is that a good thing? Breadth over depth? Is this mediating my experience with the “real world” – and does the “real world” mean “everything except those things that have a MAC address” (or are these things now part of the “real world” and so the either-or deliniation is false anyway)?

And, was David Levy’s sudden burst of non-screen productivity a result of non-screen-ness offline time, or was it the novelty of the situation that resulted him in doing a bunch of other things? Try it for a few months to find out… (I haven’t. I don’t think I will…)

Epic evening sky

 Not a bad view on the walk home this evening… 

Zygmunt Bauman: “Social media are a trap” | EL PAÍS

Q. You are skeptical of the way people protest through social media, of so-called “armchair activism,” and say that the internet is dumbing us down with cheap entertainment. So would you say that the social networks are the new opium of the people?

A. The question of identity has changed from being something you are born with to a task: you have to create your own community. But communities aren’t created, and you either have one or you don’t. What the social networks can create is a substitute. The difference between a community and a network is that you belong to a community, but a network belongs to you. You feel in control. You can add friends if you wish, you can delete them if you wish. You are in control of the important people to whom you relate. People feel a little better as a result, because loneliness, abandonment, is the great fear in our individualist age. But it’s so easy to add or remove friends on the internet that people fail to learn the real social skills, which you need when you go to the street, when you go to your workplace, where you find lots of people who you need to enter into sensible interaction with. Pope Francis, who is a great man, gave his first interview after being elected to Eugenio Scalfari, an Italian journalist who is also a self-proclaimed atheist. It was a sign: real dialogue isn’t about talking to people who believe the same things as you. Social media don’t teach us to dialogue because it is so easy to avoid controversy… But most people use social media not to unite, not to open their horizons wider, but on the contrary, to cut themselves a comfort zone where the only sounds they hear are the echoes of their own voice, where the only things they see are the reflections of their own face. Social media are very useful, they provide pleasure, but they are a trap.

Source: Zygmunt Bauman interview: Zygmunt Bauman: “Social media are a trap” | In English | EL PAÍS

First garage parking

We helped clean up my folks’ garage after they had a break-in this week. This is the first time they’ve ever had this car inside the garage. Awesome!