The ‘unplugging’ narrative is now a non-fiction genre to itself

Plants in tall grass

From the Sherry Turkle and Nicholas Carr school of ‘these new-ish things cause us to act differently so they must be bad’ comes this article by Andrew Sullivan. An example of his florid prose:

Think of how rarely you now use the phone to speak to someone. A text is far easier, quicker, less burdensome. A phone call could take longer; it could force you to encounter that person’s idiosyncrasies or digressions or unexpected emotional needs. Remember when you left voice-mail messages — or actually listened to one? Emojis now suffice. Or take the difference between trying to seduce someone at a bar and flipping through Tinder profiles to find a better match. One is deeply inefficient and requires spending (possibly wasting) considerable time; the other turns dozens and dozens of humans into clothes on an endlessly extending rack.

The author, who had a job that required him to be ‘on’ 24/7, reflects on his unplugging via a meditation retreat. This ‘unplugging’ story is almost a non-fiction genre by itself these days. I’m not entirely sure how instructive it is, given that people can get addicted to pretty much anything. 

I mean, for goodness’ sake, perhaps the guy actually has psychological issues that meant he was over-compensating with his use of technology? This section would suggest so:

I was a lonely boy who spent many hours outside in the copses and woodlands of my native Sussex, in England. I had explored this landscape with friends, but also alone — playing imaginary scenarios in my head, creating little nooks where I could hang and sometimes read, learning every little pathway through the woods and marking each flower or weed or fungus that I stumbled on. But I was also escaping a home where my mother had collapsed with bipolar disorder after the birth of my younger brother and had never really recovered. She was in and out of hospitals for much of my youth and adolescence, and her condition made it hard for her to hide her pain and suffering from her sensitive oldest son.

That must have been awful. But let’s not extrapolate from anecdotes and personal experiences to the whole human condition, eh?

Image via Nomad Pictures