I'm not sure when, but in some ways, Americans have transitioned from a society that worked toward a future, to a society that lives for the now. We watch movies on-demand; we send instant messages across the world; we get news as it happens and there's no use waiting for the six-o'clock newscast or the next day's paper.So in the past we read books, mailed letters, and got our news after the fact, from papers and peers. Today, we have Twitter streams and Facebook newsfeeds, which allow us to build an ongoing conversation around events and ideas as they're happening. On the one hand, this is good. We're living in the present moment! We're engaged with what's happening right now! And yet, the author asks, what exactly are we sacrificing for this overwhelming sense of immediacy?
First of all, I must be upfront about the fact that any time I hear an argument that begins, "well, in my day..." or "back when I was a kid, things were so much better because..." I can't help by roll my eyes. I'm a big fan of change and I believe that in the majority of cases, change is good. I think we've been steadily improving on the past for about as long as the present has been around. That said, Eyder Peralta makes a good point.
Perhaps, this technological evolution of the web is just a mirror of our society. Perhaps it signals a deeper plunge into the immediate.
If so, I ask, in a world of now, how do we get the future right?
I spend a lot of time on the Internet. It's a big part of my job, yes, but it's also a big part of my life. Sometimes I think about how often I report back to the Internet - I update my status on Facebook and Twitter, I track my runs on Dailymile, I let people know what page of The Virgin Suicides I'm on with Goodreads. So much of my life is spent clicking the refresh button. And yes, I get something out of these websites. I get a sense of community, connections to people I might otherwise lose track of or never know at all. But, as Eyder Peralta asks, what am I giving up? Spreading myself thin with a thousand surface distractions every hour - well, how can that not affect my ability to have deeper ideas, more developed epiphanies, and projects that go beyond the present moment, projects that I've nurtured past the now? Naturally, I'm thinking about writing, and how it is possibly the least instantly gratifying process on the planet. How can I become a better, more dedicated and ambitious writer, when I'm squandering all my words on tweets and IMs and comment fields?
I don't have a sassy ending for this post, but I suppose that's fitting. Excuse me while I think long and hard about this conundrum. And post the article on Facebook.