February 7, 2009

"I tend to think technology addiction has to do with fear of, or aversion to, direct human contact."

"It allows you to seem to relate to others while actually staying inside your own head and keeping control of the encounter as if it was only your fantasy. Yes, porn, but that's only symptomatic, or emblematic."

Something Amba wrote in the comments back here that disturbed me. Now, come on into my comments and have an experience with me.

40 comments:

AllenS said...

I'm visioning manning the 'See through clothes' scanner at the airport and checking you out. How disturbed is that?

Freeman Hunt said...

Couldn't it also just be convenience? People don't have to get ready, get in the car, go somewhere, and meet up with people. They can look however and just log on and go. I think that's the draw for a great number of people.

former law student said...

It depends if you know the people in real life or not. People in the essay (as far as I cared to read) used technology to stay in touch with their friends and relatives, a way of expanding their face-to-face contacts. The coeds talking on their cell phones as they (slowly) cross the street are often talking to Mom.

This may be seen as too much talking-to-Mom for an adult. But, in terms of independence/dependence, cell phones enable Americans to be as much in contact with their parents as is the typical Chinese person.

Americans may becoming more filial.

stillanerd said...

Isn't technology addiction with resultant anti-social behavior just a newer manifestation of xenophobia and its cousins? Like so many, maybe even all addictions, it's probably symptomatic of some imbalance in life somewhere.
Besides, I can stop anytime!

Pogo said...

I am simultaneously attracted to and repelled by this Althouse blog post.

Our technology addiction will be completely cured within 5 years anyway, so not to worry. And you'll get all the close up human contact you've ever wanted, and then some.

Head for the hills!

Sorry about that.

I'll agree with amba here. Given the results from my contact with people in the last 47 years, I have nursed an increasing aversion to most direct human contact. I realize it's entirely unhealthy and immature and unchristian, however, and blog responses help me practice.

Is this how people talk?
How'm I doin'?

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I still don't know very many people around here. I don't know people who I can have interesting F2F discussions with. I'd probably prefer that if I could have it.

The Class Factotum and I met up for coffee a few times when we were both still in Memphis. It was fun.

Quayle said...

I really don't mind direct human contact as long as the other person listens to my opinions and doesn't bug me or say something stupid or bore me or try to correct my facts or disagree with my conclusions.

Chip Ahoy said...

* looks up over eyeglasses *

Disturbed you? In what way?

* writes something on note pad. *

William said...

Dashiell Hammett wrote an idealized version of his relationship with Lillian Hellman in The Thin Man. There was a lot of mayonaisse on that baloney sandwich. Singly and jointly they were unhappy people who pretended that their discomfort in the world was a result of their idealism. The movie version took that idealism one step further. Alcoholics are never as dapper and witty as William Powell. Dashiell certainly wasn't. Most people who met Lillian Hellman were not struck with her resemblance to Myrna Loy. What becomes a legend most? Bullshit.....The reality of the Hammett-Hellman relationship was a story of drunkenness and need. Only someone who considered Stalin's Russia the worker's paradise would consider it their relationship a romance. Nonetheless it at one time passed into the popular imagination as an example of a successful, modern romance. The beauty of literature; the magic of movies. No wonder we all feel inauthentic. We imitate impossibly attractive people acting out the self serving fantasies of impossibly damaged bullshit artists......Cyberspace gives us the chance to put life and relationships at two or three removes. Formerly only novelists and moviemakers had this power. In my experience direct human contact (with the obvious exception of sexual intercourse) is highly overrated. Your ideal self meets my ideal self on the internet. No sweat. No betrayals. No jealousies. No disappointments. It's a more evolved form of relationship.....I work as a model for Calin Klein. In my personal life, women underestimate my intelligence and overestimate my income. Here on the internet I feel people judge me for who I really am, not for my looks or trust fund money. Here I can have the romance that Dashiell and Lillian had.

Franco said...

I happen to think people addiction is quite hazardous too.

Jason (warmer) said...

As soon as you use the word "addiction" you are already talking about people with problems. If they didn't use technology to blot out human contact, they'd use something else.

Personally, I think technology lets us reinforce parts of our personalities. And it doesn't have to be in negative ways.

Before Twitter, it was hard for me to remember what I did during the day. Maybe now I do things that are more memorable just to tweet them, but how is that bad?

And before I started collecting pictures of food with my iPhone I tended to stick to the same few restaurants. Now I want to add to my collection of blurry food photos and have tried a lot more places.

chickenlittle said...

"Thin Man" was also an aborted plutonium weapon design with an erotic trigger mechanism.

Bissage said...

I am addicted to Wii bowling.

I play it alone.

Ruth said...

My internet connections allow me to keep in touch with friends and family and I have many to keep up with. I am from a sibling family of seven, we all have children, we are a close knit group but do not live in close proximity. I have many nieces and nephews and siblings on facebook, we keep in touch by that and by emails. We call it family spam and it definitely is. But we keep in close touch that way. Cell phones are very useful to all of us for the same reason. With this many people a lot of family emergencies and needs come up, we can meet them almost instantaneously by the internet. My daughter in law recently had brain surgery and everyone was grateful to have text messaging, cell phone, emails and facebook coverage. I call it a very useful tool. When I was young and we were all in different states it was very hard to keep in that close touch with each other.

Meade said...

Many brain tumors are not life threatening.

Not that that makes me want one.

Joe said...

Jason is essentially right, though you must account for the tendency of people to claim whatever they don't like as an "addiction."

It's also common for people to claim their own likes are "addictions" as a way of justifying them.

EDH said...

Isn't technology addiction with resultant anti-social behavior just a newer manifestation of xenophobia and its cousins?

Get off my blog.

Darcy said...

I'm intrigued by your comments, William. So are you saying that on the internet you are both your ideal self and at the same time who you really are?

Joe said...

This past week, I had two important phone conferences and exchanged email and engaged in online conversations with people all over the world. This is a GOOD thing; a fantastic thing. I can show you examples how computer programmers from London, India and Australia helped a programmer from California. THIS IS AMAZING!

Instead of celebrating this, many are wringing their hands and fussing about so-called addiction. This is absurd.

One more point; I'll wager that shy and introverted (like myself) people have far more human contact than they did before this amazing electronic revolution. How is this a bad thing? (Probably for the same reason the critics fussed over the shy girl or guy at the dance and insisted that they were abnormal or thought that the person who wanted to be alone was mentally ill.)

ricpic said...

Is this how people talk?
How'm I doin'?


Fair to middling.

But prectis prectis - as the old immigrant said when asked for directions to Carnegie Hall - and someday you too will achieve super fluidity in the fine art of feeding the suck...er, patients what they wanna hear.

John Lynch said...

I didn't have more social contact before the internet. Now I have just as much plus the internet, too.

I think writers who bewail the lost past before the internet need to get a life.

And join the chorus that cried over the automobile, the steam-ship, and mechanized agriculture.

Fucking wah. Progress. If you don't like it, turn all the gadgets off. Move to New Mexico or someplace where you can't get wifi in the coffee shop. Then cry where no one can hear you.

rhhardin said...

The internet is for when you're waiting for a computer run to finish.

It replaces going for coffee.

lohwoman said...

Bissage's "bowling alone" comment reminded me of another book about community, Ray Oldenburg's "The Great Good Place." The Internet can be a great, good place if you want to use it that way. I remember corresponding for a time with a total stranger about an issue (church mergers) that interested both of us. He remarked that he and his wife had gotten to know many of their relatives better because they used the Internet to keep in touch. So we don't meet each other down at the well drawing water every day. Things evolve.

Kirk Parker said...

FLS,

"It depends if you know the people in real life or not."

Don't be so sure about that. I have a number of acquaintances I've never met in "real life", and really they're every bit as much "real" as someone would have been 100 years ago with whom I had corresponded by letter only.

traditionalguy said...

There are different tempraments analysed in the Meyers- Briggs testing, so to each his own use of the digital devices. The old adage that iron sharpens iron, and man sharpens man still holds true, once the temperament differences work their majic. I like people in person, with occaisional exceptions, and I find that the internet expands my encounters with intelligent communicators, more intense than the luck of the draw in as social grouping which tends to attract like kinds.

amba said...

This may be seen as too much talking-to-Mom for an adult. But, in terms of independence/dependence, cell phones enable Americans to be as much in contact with their parents as is the typical Chinese person.

Americans may becoming more filial.


Good point, and good trend.

amba said...

I was talking about myself. I am basically shy and introverted. I am much more articulate in writing (my idea self, never at a loss for words) than in person, because I don't falter -- don't even know -- if the other person's attention drifts. I can get absolutely glued to the laptop because it is like living in my head -- which comes very naturally -- but with live company. I've always got a running commentary in my head and the Internet tempts me to put it on tao and on display. It feels like escapism.

amba said...

There is a lack of communal space in our architecture that both reflects and reinforces something about our lives. ("We," ok ok) When I lived in NYC it struck me that there was noplace to just go hang out with people unless you wanted to pay for food and drink. (No malls.) Early on, I started an open-house Sunday brunch that anyone within 3 degrees of separation could drop in on. We'd read the Times, sit around, eat, play music, and a certain amount of networking naturally happened too. It was open-ended, unstructured, and you didn't have to make an appointment and travel through a linear tube to someone else's cubicle, then back. It was an open space. An agora. Tragedy of the commons.

The Internet has some of that quality, for want of it in the physical world (and when you're constantly mobile, you couldn't go to that shared place even if you wanted to). Later on, we used to go to a health club where people would sit in the coed Jacuzzi (with swim suits on, it was not plato's retreat) and strike up friendships -- sometimes after just saying "hi" for years -- and artistic collaborations, and all sorts of other things. I called it "people soup." That was our community until it got shut down because the owner, who was a crook, hadn't posted his bond or gotten his health inspections or something. He Madoff with quite a few people's money. And the community dispersed. The health club a lot of dispersed to had separate jacuzzis in the locker rooms. Sometimes it's as simple as that.

amba said...

not "on tao." on TAP.

Ann Althouse said...

"not "on tao." on TAP"

LOL. Just when I'd gotten my mind around it.

Ann Althouse said...

"Tragedy of the commons."

Why was it tragic?

I dreamed of doing something like this. Having a salon at my house once a week -- maybe Thursday evenings.

The blog stands in for some of those things I wanted to do -- without the physical intimacy, which is a plus and a minus.

Meade said...

'which is a plus and a minus.'

Sure, but have you noticed - even in the online salon, there is always that one obtuse commenter who fails to take off his muddy boots.

Ann Althouse said...

"who fails to take off his muddy boots"

That's when I have to stomp on a kitteh.

William said...

Darcy: This is not an irony free zone....There is a movie called Julia which I consider an extended metaphor for internet identities. It's the movie version of an incident in Lillian Hellman's memoir, Pentimiento. In the movie, Hellman is played by Jane Fonda (when she was still primo). That's the first metaphor. Jane Fonda doesn't represent the inner beauty of Lillian. I think Lillian represents the inner ugliness of Jane Fonda. Lillian was a neurotic Stalinist with all her neediness plainly written on her claw like face. If Jane Fonda's soul were visible in her face, she would look a lot like Lillian Hellman....The incident detailed in Julia was a lot of crap. There was a real Julia. Her name was Muriel Gardiner. She was a beautiful American heiress who risked her life to work in the Austrian anti-Nazi movement. She never met Lillian Hellman, and Lillian Hellman certainly never risked her life to smuggle money to her. The movie was a dramatization of a flat out whopper.....In prior years only people like Lillian Hellman could present themselves as looking like Myrna Loy or Jane Fonda. Only people like Lillian Hellman could expropriate the courage of someone like Muriel Gardiner to themselves. Now with this great leap forward in mendacity known as the internet we can be as comely as we deep, down really are and recount the grand adventures we should have had were it not for the cruel facts of reality.

Darcy said...

Wonderful explanation, William. Then I very much like the real you. Thank you.

amba said...

The tragedy is the loss of the commons. I was free-associating a bit too much.

BTW, being a shy introvert and having open Sunday brunch is not a contradiction. First of all, besides being a shy introvert I'm also a barely repressed show-off. Second, open situations like that are best for shy people. Appointment socializing -- a date or even dinner with friends -- is too focused and time-limited. It's like the spotlight's on you, you're on, and you have to deliver -- a command performance. In a Jacuzzi or with a bunch of people sprawled around a living room, you can lurk. You can free ride on someone else's conversation until you can't contain yourself any longer and break in because you have something irrepressible to say, not because it's your turn to talk.

The tragedy of the commons refers to the fencing in of land in the 18th-century England. But to me it also means the loss of those casual, fertile common spaces once you're too old for the mall or the dorm.

former law student said...

When I lived in NYC it struck me that there was noplace to just go hang out with people unless you wanted to pay for food and drink.

John Holt, who wrote many books about how children learn and how teachers -- including himself -- failed them, made that same point in one of his books.

He suggested what's lacking in our lives is a sort of student union for adults.

Right now, the library is typically the only place you can hang out at without spending money.

amba said...

Yeah. We take it for granted, but it's really strange, when you think about it.

Ann Althouse said...

"When I lived in NYC it struck me that there was noplace to just go hang out with people unless you wanted to pay for food and drink."

In "Down and Out in Paris and London," George Orwell writes about not being able to sit down in London without paying. He gained real sympathy for the people who stand around on street corners for hours, knowing these were people who actually really needed to sit down and could not -- not even on the sidewalk.

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