I came across this article on my favorite facebook page, Brain Pickings:
“Previous technologies have expanded communication. But the last round may be contracting it.”
I shared it, and someone else picked it up and reposted it. I wanted to share what I wrote about it:
I used to be an avid, okay maybe obsessive, pen-pal. I have written hundreds of hand-written letters to friends and boyfriends. I kept in touch with my first love long after we broke up while he was in the Navy for four years. I was thrilled to get letters from my friend in the Peace Corp when he was stationed in Belize. I wrote friends who were away at different colleges from me.
But I also wrote thousands of email letters over the past 10 years. Letters just as beautiful, and maybe even more so, since I could easily write 1000 words using the keyboard without my hand hurting and have access to links to my blog if I wanted to illustrate my points further with other writings I have breathed into existence, or photographs I’ve taken or artwork I’ve created. I can’t do that in a snail mail letter.
I have reached out to some wonderful people in Greece and Australia and Canada and Maine and Tennessee and have been enriched by their friendship, who have the gift of the written word and some amazing life stories and wisdom to share. My reach is a hell of a lot farther thanks to technology. So I recognize it’s not all bad.
I still have a great urge to express myself through the written word, WHEN I have the time to sit and spill out (and when I do, it’s glorious). And I think that this passage is mostly why I shared this article:
She considers the sense of loss, nebulous in its precise object but undeniably palpable, that many of us feel in bearing witness to and partaking in this profound shift in the human experience:
“I think it is for a quality of time we no longer have, and that is hard to name and harder to imagine reclaiming. My time does not come in large, focused blocks, but in fragments and shards. The fault is my own, arguably, but it’s yours too — it’s the fault of everyone I know who rarely finds herself or himself with uninterrupted hours. We’re shattered. We’re breaking up.
It’s hard, now, to be with someone else wholly, uninterruptedly, and it’s hard to be truly alone. The fine art of doing nothing in particular, also known as thinking, or musing, or introspection, or simply moments of being, was part of what happened when you walked from here to there, alone, or stared out the train window, or contemplated the road, but the new technologies have flooded those open spaces. Space for free thought is routinely regarded as a void and filled up with sounds and distractions.”
[as an aside, I’ve taken two cross-country trips by train from Indiana to Colorado, and it was a wonderful experience. Everyone should take a long-distance train ride at least once in their lives.]
This is what bothers me the most. Not that I don’t do this. I most certainly do. But less so now that my husband left me and I have full responsibility of the house and my daughters when they are with me. I don’t have large stretches of uninterrupted hours like I did when I was a stay-at-home mom.
I have an off day from work at the laboratory (I’m a diagnostic technician in a microbiology laboratory). And what am I doing? Cleaning the house? Shopping for food?
No, I’m thinking and writing. I’m reaching out to a few people via facebook. I have precisely two friends right now that will drop everything to go and meet me for coffee and conversation. The only other way I have of reaching people is through the internet. And for that I’m glad. And I’ll use facebook to write just as much as I would my blog, or my emails, or writing hand-written letters and journals.
I have filled the hours this morning with some beautiful words, on other people’s pages, and my own. I filled it not with 30 second sound bites or the latest political blather, but with some melancholic introspection of the approaching holidays. I filled it will some loving support for a young Facebook friend who says the color from his life has faded, just a little bit. And I’ve enjoyed sharing here, on my blog. Mostly for my own enjoyment, though I hope it aMuses someone else, too.
I think without being able to use my words and reach others through this technological medium, I could not bear it. I would be dying of unbearable loneliness right now.
But I don’t have to. And for that, I’m eternally grateful to technology. I will master and lay claim to this technology and make it a vehicle for the expansion, not contraction of my life.
I love you all.