You always see one book that everyone reads on the train. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart was the most buzzed about book in the late summer/early fall of this year. Since I have read Absurdistan, I caved in and bought the book. I LOVED THIS BOOK. Besides the fact Shteyngart has a humor that is unmatchable and talent for crafting stories, his characters are so HUMAN. The premise of Super Sad is the characters live in the future where our hyper-over-connectedness has changed the function of society. People no longer read books; in fact the main character, Lenny, is an anomaly for reading War and Peace. Instead, people “scan” media on their apparat, a device worn around their neck that eerily similar to the smartphone of today – but in over drive. One can walk into a bar and scan the f*ckability of each person in order to determine who you should mack on. Lenny is in love with a girl who can’t understand the use of a relationship based solely on love and emotion.
While it is a beautifully crafted story (and I’m recommending everyone read it), it does leave one thinking about the fate of our society and how we are approaching the world of Lenny. The concept of “singularity” weighs over me. While we are becoming more used to a world where we are hyper-connected and communicate with people “remotely” (Twitter, texting, Facebook), will we began to lose touch with humanity?
To build on my reading list and counteract my feelings about hyper-over-connectedness, I bought another book (I do have a library card…that I rarely use) Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers, who promises to impart wisdom on how to survive our hyper-connected world using philosophy from the greats such as Shakespeare and Plato. Though the writing itself isn’t anything impressive, in the introduction an interesting idea was produced in an admittedly overwritten metaphor. Being active with social media is like being in a room full of everyone you know (and don’t know), and they are constantly tapping you on the shoulder vying for your attention. One can remove themselves from the room, but after a while feel disconnected. When you take a break from an active conversation, you can’t help but feel you are missing out. In a nutshell, that is why the idea of social media has caught on – in order to have active conversations, people must participate. I would bet that a third of a time, people only participate out of fear of being out of the loop. As I’d like to phrase (thank you Eagles) “you can always check out but you can never leave”. I met with a friend last week who said people actively choose to be engaged and can leave at anytime. Obviously he is wrong – because I’m stubborn and refuse to lose – but for my growing generation, it is all we have ever known. The dread in middle school of not knowing what all the cool kids are talking about is manifested in HOW MANY platforms there are for EVERYONE talking TO other people about what they are doing. Arguably, people can survive without having a social media presence, can still get jobs, can still get dates, can speak eloquently about current affairs. It’s the same as how some people live without owning a car – it’s something that everyone assumes is the norm (culture and society has adapted around it) but it is not a NEED for living.
Yes – I work at a digital agency as a Social Marketing Coordinator. I know the ins and outs of Facebook and Twitter because it IS my job. One may say I’m being a big hypocrite. I beg to differ. The “social media experts” out there are working to make sure YOUR attention is not wasted by making sure that whatever platform a business uses is utilized efficiently so it doesn’t appear OBNOXIOUS. My hope is that one day everyone is the world can live harmoniously and know the right time to share a viral video of a pet dancing to a top 40 hit.