I finished “The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection” this past week and really resonated with the author Michael Harris’ musings on technology’s impact of society.
A bit in the vein of Sherry Turkle (Reclaiming Conversation, Alone Together, etc), he interviewers her and so many more (including another favorite author of mine, Douglas Coupland) in his quest to find out more about what the ‘Before’ generation (those born before 1985) has to steward about life ‘before’ the internet.
What is necessary about that time to communicate to those born After 1985? Is there anything worth stewarding? If so, what, and how? How has this constant connection taken a toll on authenticity, attention, memory, etc?
About halfway through the book I realized it reminded me of the Lorax with its equally urgent voice in the undercurrent. I don’t think Harris isn’t ‘speaking to the trees’ necessarily, but more that he is championing the quiet. And being bold to say that he does think its weird to see toddlers in screens with strollers, that it’s disheartening to see teenagers texting each other as they sit side by side, that he has to force himself to read “War and Peace” to remind himself that he indeed, can keep reading large tomes of text despite his brain’s new patten of reading “up to down” as a Twitter feed.
Our household is quite low-tech compared to most and I often feel a bit like a little Lorax in the woods against the noise of technology which I know will just be more of a complex environment to navigate as the kids get older….and so one of the largest emotions I had reading this book was one of relief, that someone else intuits that something is a bit off…that it’s not just me that sees this cognitive dissonance in our society at the moment (and by the way appreciates many of its upsides but is struggling herself to find that tech/media personal integration).
I’ve been playing around with a tech Sabbath for a while now and I took a weekend break this time….and while it certainly wasn’t absent of noise…it did allow some sort of wonderful quiet to creep in.
Publisher: Portfolio Penguin; Reprint edition (4 Aug. 2015)
Available from Amazon
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Prior to that she has served as a Team Leader at Chatham Financial Europe in the UK, the Associate Director of the International Center & Admissions at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, the NGO and Policy Coordination Officer at the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and a consultant for the Corporate Executive Board.
She holds a Bachelors in International Relations and Spanish from Tufts University and a Masters in International Relations from the LSE. She is also an accredited practitioner of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) as well as a certified CultureActive® cross-cultural trainer. Further, she serves as a guest writer for the Huffington Post.
A truly global citizen, Natalie is Argentine-American and has worked, studied and volunteered in over 35 countries. She currently resides in Ann Arbor, MI with her husband and three children.