The article begins with the memory of receiving handwritten letters and how communication changed with the advent of the internet. If I want to get in touch with myself it’s best I do it by hand. Typing thoughts doesn’t do it, even though you could consider it being the same act. It’s not. There’s not that deep a connection with myself when I type. When I write by hand I’m in with myself, feeling the flow of my hand across the paper, sometimes with resistance, sometimes my hand flies.
Previous technologies have expanded communication. But the last round may be contracting it. The eloquence of letters has turned into the nuanced spareness of texts; the intimacy of phone conversations has turned into the missed signals of mobile phone chat. I think of that lost world, the way we lived before these new networking technologies, as having two poles: solitude and communion. The new chatter puts us somewhere in between, assuaging fears of being alone without risking real connection. It is a shallow between two deeper zones, a safe spot between the dangers of contact with ourselves, with others.
I guess what hurts most is that we are out of touch with ourselves. I still enjoy the time on a train or walking from A to B without looking at a device, not even a book. I love how, on the train, my thoughts travel to their own destination and rejoin with me when I arrive at my destination.
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.
Food for thought for this Sunday. Make it a good one 🙂