When I first got an iPhone, it was liberating. I could do anything from anywhere. Now it feels more like I’m tethered and tied to all parts of my life all at once and the only escape is accidentally dropping my phone in the toilet of a Chinese restaurant.
That feeling should be more or less familiar to anyone over twenty, we “digital immigrants” who didn’t take our first breath and then tweet about it immediately afterwards. But it’s also a feeling that has been around for years and years.
In a prescient interview at VQR, David Houne says:
“One-hundred years ago when the landline was making its market penetration in the United States, the two most significant arguments against getting the landline were information overload and invasion of privacy. So the point is: Whenever we have any kind of new technology paradigm, we come from the present context of its newness and think that it’s overwhelming.”
But what’s a digital immigrant to do?
“Just because it rings doesn’t mean you have to answer it. Just because you get an e-mail doesn’t mean you have to read it now. You always have to have a new discipline for something new. You learn to turn it off, and if you can’t, don’t complain.”
Predictions about the future are inherently dubious, but I think it’s safe to say there’ll always be plenty to complain about.
Before you go Amish, head to VQR for more great insight into the future of creativity, information fatigue, and the increasing need for curation (there were apparently 1.8 zettabytes of data created in 2010, and a zettabyte is pretty much one less than infinity).
—Benjamin Samuel is co-editor of Electric Literature. You can send him a telegram here.