Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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NY1 teams with contributors from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Slate.com and Essence Magazine to review the latest books and book-related trends.

The Book Reader: 'The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection'

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Bari Weiss of The Wall Street Journal reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."

Every day this week, I’ve logged onto Facebook to see a version of the following post from a friend: "I’m taking a break from Facebook for a while. Not sure when I’ll be back."
 
I’ve yet to summon the strength to abstain from social media for more than a day or two, but “The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection” convinced me it might be a wise move.
 
It’s painful for some of us to admit, but in a very short period of time we’ve become addicted to our devices. Soon, the majority of the world population won’t know what it’s like to live without the Internet—and Canadian journalist Michael Harris argues in his new book that this problem will have myriad intended consequences.
 
Mr. Harris marshals impressive evidence to make the case that absence is crucial to the way our brains learn, develop and progress. Thanks to Texting, Twitter, Netflix, Snapchat, and Candy Crush we don’t space out anymore, we don’t let our minds wander, and we certainly don’t ever get bored. Our constant connectedness, writes Mr. Harris, is more dangerous than we think.
 
And we are certainly constantly connected. Mr. Harris estimates that Internet usage has expanded 566 percent in the last decade. According to Youtube’s own statistics, users uploaded 100 hours of video for every minute of real time in 2013. That’s a “decade” video posted to the internet every day. The time we spend in cyberspace comes at a price, Mr. Harris writes. “The burning solitudes are extinguished,” he laments.
 
In order to prove his point, Mr. Harris goes on a month-long tech-fast, turning off all his devices except a landline phone. He keeps a log every day. "Behavior that seemed utterly normal on the 30th of July now looks compulsive and animalistic,” he writes. “When I see teenage girls buried in to their phones…I think of monkey picking lice out of each other’s hair.”

If that line stings, perhaps it’s because we see that monkey-like behavior in ourselves.

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